Marlene Mortler, the German government's drug commissioner, had lobbied for the decision to allow patients to buy cannabis from their local pharmacy with a doctor's prescription.
"It's a great addition for patients who have waited for this a long time," Mortler said.
Cannabis-based medicine is produced by the Italian Army at Stabilimento Chimico Farmaceutico Militare in Florence.
The production of cannabis is just one of the activities of the military's 164-year-old chemical and pharmaceutical institute. The body prides itself on the fact that its cannabis was registered as a pharmaceutical product by Italy's medicines agency in September 2015. The end product is very different from most of the cannabis consumed around the world.
Less THC, more CBD
The component that gets recreational users high - tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - is less useful to doctors than another active ingredient, the anti-inflammatory cannabidiol (CBD). An estimated 2,000 -3,000 Italians currently use medical cannabis for instance to relieve multiple sclerosis pain and spasticity or combat nausea after chemotherapy.
"I have never tried it!"
"No, I have never tried it, and I don't have any intention of trying it either," says Antonio Medica, the colonel in charge of the Italian military's cannabis laboratory in Florence. He laughs that one of his colleagues joked the other day, saying they spent 40 years trying to stop the troops smoking it in the barracks and "now we are producing it ourselves'."
Suiting up for the growing room
Production in a sterile, sealed environment is very important. "That is the only way you can ensure a consistent product and one free from the toxic materials, particularly heavy metals like mercury, that the plants can easily absorb when grown in fields," Medica explains.
Relief for cancer patients
The German parliament In January 2017 voted unanimously in a landmark bill to legalize the use of medical marijuana, for instance ot help cancer patients feeling nauseaous after chemotherapy. The drug is also said to help fight a lack of appetite and weight loss in tumor patients, and can alleviate symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Made in Italy
Above, a pharmacist prepares a prescription of marijuana in the laboratories. The first batches of made-in-Italy pot have just arrived in pharmacies.
Doctors have stated that marijuana can benefit cancer patients who are feeling nauseous after chemotherapy, and it also is believed the drug helps fight a lack of appetite and the weight loss that some tumor patients experience. Cannabis can additionally alleviate symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.