A pharmacy in Florence, Italy. (Photo by Alfredo Pascual)
Italian regulators have reminded pharmacies they are barred from shipping medical cannabis preparations to customers, a major departure from how patients have accessed the medicine for years in the southern European country.
Business and patient groups warn that a government crackdown on such shipments – based on a 30-year-old law – could turn back the clock on the nation’s burgeoning medical cannabis industry.
A significant portion of the cannabis dispensed by pharmacies is thought to be shipped to patients – as opposed to in-store purchases.
The government signaled its intention to enforce the law in a recent document from the Medical Devices and Pharmaceutical Service of the Italian Ministry of Health.
Italy is the second-largest European market in terms of cannabis flower and full-spectrum extracts.
Restrictive regulations governing how patients can legally access medical marijuana is one of the biggest challenges facing international medical markets.
This often leads to only a fraction of the patients who could benefit from a cannabis-based therapy actually having access to the medicine – and that means fewer business opportunities in the sector.
In Italy, most pharmacies do not dispense medical cannabis because of the specialization and technology required.
Shipping cannabis magistral preparations to patients has been common practice in Italy for years, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.
But this practice is