The Sicilian government will now foot the bill for many patients using medical cannabis.
Sicily’s top health administrator, Ruggero Razza, announced in early 2020 that the government would pay for prescribed medical marijuana for certain conditions. This autonomous region of Italy (one of five) now joins other governments in the European Union in subsidizing a large portion of their citizen’s cannabis treatments.
Patients with cerebral palsy, chronic or neuropathic pain, or multiple sclerosis can qualify for free medical marijuana. It will be sourced from pharmacies in Agrigento, Catania, Palermo, Ragusa and Syracuse, Italian media outlet Lasiciliaweb reports. The Czech Republic and Ireland also offer similar programs providing cost-free prescribed cannabis.
Medical use of marijuana has been legal on this Italian island since 2013, while recreational use remains outlawed. But, in late 2019, Italy joined the growing list of countries, including Canada, Uruguay and others, where small-scale marijuana cultivation at home for personal use is legal.
“It’s a very important decision because it will shield from prison those who choose to cultivate marijuana for personal use,” Leonardo Fiorentini, a representative of the drug policy advocacy group Forum Droghe, said at the time.
As High Times reported, most of Sicily’s medical cannabis comes from the Netherlands. Some also comes from Canada via the company Aurora Cannabis, which also supplies Luxembourg and Ireland’s governments.
In the U.S., insurers generally do not pay for medical marijuana, even when legal and prescribed by a healthcare provider. Two key reasons for this are that, federally, cannabis is not considered a medicine by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and it is still classified as a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Select synthetic marijuana drugs like Marinol are FDA-approved and covered by some insurance companies.