The reasons behind the Italian armed forces growing marijuana in a military lab are more noble than you might expect. Apparently, the army is doing so after it was agreed upon by the country’s Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Health “to lower costs and make it more available to those who need it.” Think Progress compares the Italian approach to pot with the American way below.

Think Progress:

The approach to the controversial medical treatment represents somewhat of a departure from how marijuana is regulated here in the U.S.

While medical marijuana has been legal in Italy since 2007, it is extremely expensive; one month of treatment for multiple sclerosis is around 700 euros. According to the Italian newspaper La Stampa, only around 60 people in Italy had access to it through the Azienda Sanitaria Locale, which issues health insurance on a local level.

Under the plan, the laboratory, which currently produces drugs for the Italian military, will distribute the marijuana it grows to pharmacies through out the country starting in 2015. Private pharmacies, however, will not be allowed to produce their own medical marijuana because of “the delicacy of this issue,” the Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin said. She said that through the new program, the cost of medical marijuana should be cut in half and that fewer people will have to buy it from street dealers…Here in the United States, 23 states and the District of Columbia have made medical marijuana legal. However, there have been difficulties in lowering the cost of medical marijuana for Americans who want to use it. Health insurance does not cover medical marijuana due to its status as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, so users must pay out of pocket, which can cost hundreds of dollars. Some states and cities have found their own ways of lowering the cost of medical pot, like giving patients income-based discounts or setting aside two percent of product for low-income patients.

Meanwhile, federally-funded research on medical marijuana is non-existent; this summer, the University of Arizona fired Dr. Sue Sisley, who was the only person to gain approval from the federal government to use marijuana legally in her research. In Massachusetts, doctors who advise medical marijuana dispensaries reported that the Drug Enforcement Administration has threatened to suspend their DEA licenses.

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—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

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