The Italian Ministry of Health plans to almost triple the quantity of medical marijuana to be produced domestically in the coming year.
This signals the intention of the government to rely to a lesser degree on imports in 2020 to serve growing domestic demand for medical cannabis.
As per the country’s psychotropic substances quota, which covers medical cannabis, the health ministry is allowing the Stabilimento Chimico Farmaceutico di Firenze (SCFF) to produce 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds) of cannabis flower in 2020, according to a decree recently published in Italy’s official Gazette.
The SCFF, which is under the wing of the Ministry of Defense, is the only organization authorized to grow medical cannabis in Italy.
In 2018, 578 kilograms of medical marijuana were sold to patients in Italy, but that quantity is expected to increase significantly for 2019 when the final total is tallied.
The SCFF’s 2019 production is estimated to be below 200 kilograms.
Giuseppe Libutti, an Italian business lawyer, told Marijuana Business Daily that the production increase is positive because it shows the commitment of Italy’s government to the continuity of the medical cannabis program.
However, it also “confirms the SCFF’s inability to satisfy the growing demand,” Libutti said. “Imports will continue to be needed because planned domestic production won’t be enough.”
Domestic production is supplemented with imports, which also need to comply with EU-GMP processes.
Most of the medical marijuana sold in Italy comes from the Netherlands, where it is produced by Bedrocan and exported by the Dutch government Office of Medicinal Cannabis.
Aurora Cannabis is the only Canadian-based company supplying Italy, albeit a very small portion of the market.
Through a contract won in early 2018, Aurora could supply 100 kilograms to the country.
The company also won a recent application process to supply another 400 kilograms of medical cannabis over a period of two years.
However, part of the latest contract was recently canceled by the government.
The Italian region of Tuscany and the SCFF agreed on a joint venture to produce medical cannabis and to generate evidence on the efficacy and safety of the drug.
The decision, made in November, is a continuation of an ongoing collaboration between the two entities. The project was approved by a resolution presented by Councilor for Health Stefania Saccardi and approved by the regional council.
The three-year project – which might be extended – will focus on three areas:
- The production of cannabis flower for medical use.
- The standardization of oil extracts.
- The design and conduct of clinical trials.
The total investment amounts to 1.4 million euros ($ 1.5 million). Of that total, the SCFF will contribute 600,000 euros and the region of Tuscany 795,000 euros, starting with 397,000 euros in 2020 followed by 198,750 euros in each of the following two years.
Tuscany justified the investment as a way to acquire clinical data to validate the safety and efficacy of cannabis and its derivatives covered by its health services.
Despite the small quantities being sold, Italy and the Netherlands remain the next largest medical cannabis markets in Europe after Germany.
Alfredo Pascual can be reached at [email protected]