Italy legalized marijuana for medical use last year, but the high cost of buying legal pot in a pharmacy meant few people signed up. Now, the government has found a solution: get the army to grow it.

Starting next year, a high-security lab in a military compound in Florence will grow cannabis for Italy’s health care system in an experiment the government says could bring safe, legal and affordable marijuana to suffering patients.

The new army supply should allow the government to lower the price for consumers, who now have to pay up to 10 times as much at a pharmacy for marijuana officially imported from Holland as they might for a bag on the street from a local drug dealer.

Regional health authorities are expected to offer it to qualified patients cheaply or for free, helping to put mafia-linked drug dealers out of business. But whether large numbers sign up will depend on cultural factors in a Catholic country with an historic stigma against drugs.

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