Skip to main content

Why is there a shortage of Cannabis in Italy?

By September 27, 2022No Comments
Perché in Italia c’è carenza di Cannabis medica

Despite domestic production established and imports from abroad, Italian patients experience first-hand the frequent Cannabis’ deficiency in Pharmacies. Here’s why.


Why there’s a shortage of Cannabis in Italy

In Italy, Medical Cannabis is considered a medication in all respects, so that in some regions loanability is expected. And yet, every day our Country finds itself facing a considerable shortage of Cannabis, especially on National production level; this has repercussions on the health and on the patient’s right to receive treatment, whom, based on the last estimates, in 2021 have exceeded 50,000 people, among those suffering from diseases with spasticity associated with pain and who suffers of multiple sclerosis, glaucoma or Tourette syndrome, just to mention some of the most common conditions.


But what are the main causes of this deficiency? Here are the four key factors.


Shortage due to underestimation of needs

Among the first causes is the underestimation of needs made by the Ministry of Health. Up until a few months ago, in fact, according to the Ministry the yearly needs of therapeutic Cannabis within the national borders was estimated around 1,600 kg for a total of 50,000 patients, but based on data gathered by the Committee of Cannabis Patients and related associations, the actual annual needs of just only 287 patients has resulted to be amounting to a 163,3 kg (13,6 kg per month then). This means that the 0,57% of patients uses, alone, the 10% of the total national production indicated by the Ministry.


“This underlines the complete inadequacy and separation from reality of the Ministry’s estimates; the Ministry whom in the last 10 years has been annually solicited to review the upward data and has been encouraged to expand the recognised diseases, re-evaluating the estimates according to new parameters, closer to reality and to the suffering of the sick, it has not kept pace with nations entering the medical market subsequently and which have implemented the domestic production responding to the growing demand”, reads the Patients’ Committee Medical Cannabis website.


Levels too low of Italian production

Based on its own estimates, the Ministry has scheduled for the Military Pharmaceutical Institute of Florence a production of approximately 600 kg per year (2021 data): not nearly enough to face the demand required by the italian patients.


On the 17th of December 2021, though, the ministers of Health Roberto Speranza and of Defence Lorenzo Guerini have signed an agreement to expand production in the Tuscan factory. With the double goal of: on one side to reach self sufficiency, now estimated to be 2,400 kg; on the other to open the production to individuals through special Calls, so as to answer to the growing Italian demand and depend less on imports. The Call has been issued in April 2022 and now new developments are expected.


The times of production

Despite the interest of the Ministry to expand the National production and the Call (expired on the 29th of July 2022) which would open the sector to individuals, now Italy is faced with another problem: the times of production.


Once the Italian factories involved have been selected, two to three years are necessary to launch a true National production able to make up for the current shortcomings.

In the meantime the Country would face once again the probem of the shortage of Cannabis.


The current regulations in terms of imports

According to what you read on the website of the Italian Health Minister  “in consideration of the current availability of only two products, Cannabis FM1 and Cannabis FM2, active plant-derived substances based on Cannabis of national production with different THC and CBD content, the import of  non-registered Dutch products based on Cannabis will continue to  receive authorisation, in relation to the availability of the Office of Medical Cannabis to export, which applies the directives of the Ministry of Health, welfare and Dutch sport on the export of such products”.


Currently, in fact, the Law allows only 5 companies to import drugs based on Cannabis in our national borders. Importers are also obliged to refer for supplies only to the Ministry of Health of the Netherlands, which, in turn, since 2003 receives supplies from Bedrocan, among the leading companies in the sector and that operates also in Germany, Finland, Canada and in the Czec Republic. Due to these regulations, Italy is limited in both economic and availability.