Italian medical cannabis – Legal situation and practical reality

Medical cannabis made in Italy

Between endless expectations and insufficient quantities, the world of medical cannabis in Italy

The scientific evidence on the medical effects of medical cannabis is becoming more and more numerous, despite the difficulties in carrying out medical research on a product that is considered illegal in many countries. The treatment of chronic pain, as well as the beneficial effects in the treatment of nausea in patients who are receiving chemotherapy treatments, are now well established benefits. To these are added many other diseases for which studies are still ongoing, with encouraging results. Anxiety disorders, increasing appetite in HIV patients, treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and many others.

How is the medical cannabis situation in Italy?

The Consolidated Law on Drugs 309 of 1990 had sanctioned the possibility of cultivating therapeutic cannabis with authorizations in specific structures. This was followed by the possibility of importing drugs such as Bedrocan and Bediol in 2007. The first Italian production began in 2014, after an agreement between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Defense. The Military Pharmaceutical Chemical Plant of Florence has in fact started the cultivation of cannabis inflorescences for medical use.

The use of medical cannabis is intended for patients in the case of "chronic pain and that associated with multiple sclerosis as well as spinal cord injuries; nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, radiotherapy, HIV therapies; as an appetite stimulant in cachexia, anorexia, loss of appetite in cancer or AIDS patients and in anorexia nervosa; the hypotensive effect in glaucoma; the reduction of involuntary body and facial movements in Gilles de la Tourette syndrome "as indicated in Ministerial Decree of 9 November 2015 .

What happens in practice for patients?

Although there are laws and decrees to regulate its use, medical cannabis remains a mirage for many patients. First of all, the request for the administration of medical cannabis is submitted only after the other treatments have failed. Prescriptions are therefore often very late. Soon after, there is another problem: medical cannabis is in short supply. The Italian production is around 100kg per year, absolutely insufficient for the numerous demands of the market. Many sufferers are thus forced to turn to other products, such as Cannabis Light, or to self-production or to the dealing market, thus falling into illegality.

The quantities produced and imported are established by the Ministry of Health which, however, makes too conservative choices. In 2018, 500kg of direct production and purchases from abroad are estimated, very few due to the growing demands in our country.