The Italian Army is Growing Pot… to Drive Costs Down

Patients who’ve been prescribed medical marijuana in Italy have been running into a prohibitive problem: high prices. The Italian military has an unexpected solution.

Israel Pioneers Use Of Medical Marijuana
Israel Pioneers Use Of Medical Marijuana
SAFED, ISRAEL - MARCH 07: (ISRAEL OUT) Cannabis plants at the growing facility of the Tikun Olam company on March 7, 2011 near the northern city of Safed, Israel. In conjunction with Israel's Health Ministry, Tikon Olam are currently distributing cannabis for medicinal purposes to over 1800 people in Israel. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Patients who’ve been prescribed medical marijuana in Italy have been running into a prohibitive problem: high prices. The Italian military has an unexpected solution: building a weed farm on a military-run pharmaceutical plant in the hopes of growing enough marijuana to bring those prices down.

The secure indoor farm, which will also house facilities for drying and packing the weed, is set to grow 220 pounds of the plant this year, according to a report by Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The goal, Colonel Antonio Medica told Corriere TV, is for prices to fall as low as $5.60 per gram after the military harvests its crop. That would be a massive financial boon for his nation's medical marijuana users, who at present buy their stashes at jacked-up prices approaching $40 per gram, and who pay out of pocket because the state healthcare system won’t shell out for pot, even if prescribed.

Patients who’ve been prescribed medical marijuana in Italy have been running into a prohibitive problem: high prices. The Italian military has an unexpected solution: building a weed farm on a military-run pharmaceutical plant in the hopes of growing enough marijuana to bring those prices down.

The secure indoor farm, which will also house facilities for drying and packing the weed, is set to grow 220 pounds of the plant this year, according to a report by Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The goal, Colonel Antonio Medica told Corriere TV, is for prices to fall as low as $5.60 per gram after the military harvests its crop. That would be a massive financial boon for his nation’s medical marijuana users, who at present buy their stashes at jacked-up prices approaching $40 per gram, and who pay out of pocket because the state healthcare system won’t shell out for pot, even if prescribed.

In a 2012 survey, over one in five Italians said they had smoked marijuana. In 2014, a court decision struck down a 2006 law shepherded by the conservative Silvio Berlusconi administration mandating harsh penalties for cannabis use; offenses beyond low level possession remain imprisonable. As of last year, 40 percent of Italy’s prisoners were serving time on drug convictions, and a 2013 ruling by European Court of Human Rights argued that overcrowding in Italy’s prisons violated basic rights.

Marijuana makes its way to the Italian market through dark channels: In 2008, authorities seized over 50,000 pounds of pot in an investigation that uncovered an extensive partnership between the ’Ndrangheta in Calabria and the Zetas cartel in Mexico, and Italy-U.S. joint anti-mafia raids last year revealed connections between drug syndicates in Italy, Latin America, and the United States, according to InSight Crime.

Italy may not lead the E.U. in progressive marijuana policy innovations, but with this initiative, its army certainly does.

 Twitter: @bsoloway

More from Foreign Policy

Soldiers of the P18 Gotland Regiment of the Swedish Army camouflage an armoured vehicle during a field exercise near Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland on May 17.
Soldiers of the P18 Gotland Regiment of the Swedish Army camouflage an armoured vehicle during a field exercise near Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland on May 17.

What Are Sweden and Finland Thinking?

European leaders have reassessed Russia’s intentions and are balancing against the threat that Putin poses to the territorial status quo. 

Ukrainian infantry take part in a training exercise with tanks near Dnipropetrovsk oblast, Ukraine, less than 50 miles from the front lines, on May 9.
Ukrainian infantry take part in a training exercise with tanks near Dnipropetrovsk oblast, Ukraine, less than 50 miles from the front lines, on May 9.

The Window To Expel Russia From Ukraine Is Now

Russia is digging in across the southeast.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken participate in a virtual summit with the leaders of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue countries at the White House in Washington on March 12.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken participate in a virtual summit with the leaders of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue countries at the White House in Washington on March 12.

Why China Is Paranoid About the Quad

Beijing has long lived with U.S. alliances in Asia, but a realigned India would change the game.

Members of the National Defence Training Association of Finland attend a training.
Members of the National Defence Training Association of Finland attend a training.

Finns Show Up for Conscription. Russians Dodge It.

Two seemingly similar systems produce very different militaries.