A few months ago, we reported that Italy’s first-ever cannabis clone shop had opened in the northern city of Milan. But that’s not all the people of this southern European nation are doing in response to recent relaxations of the laws governing THC percentages!
Now, high-CBD, low-THC cannabis is being sold all over the country, in tobacconists and general stores, and is skyrocketing in popularity. So, we got in touch with a producer of high-quality, low-THC cannabis grown in Trentino, northern Italy – a beautiful province in the country’s Alpine north.
Up in their tranquil location surrounded by lofty, snow-capped peaks, the guys at Green Lab Italia are busy growing, processing and distributing high-quality hemp flowers for the consumer market. They agreed to send some samples of their products so we could try for ourselves, and discover if the products currently available live up to the hype!
A few days later, we received samples of three different varieties, Toro Scatenato (“Raging Bull” in English!), Primo Brown No 1, and O’green. On discussing further with Sam Bread, our contact at Green Lab Italia, we were told that they are in fact EU-certified varieties of industrial hemp: respectively, Villanova, Dioica 88 and Carmagnola.
The Green Lab team has selected good mothers and used them as the basis for improved breeding lines, focusing on the plants with the best aroma and structure. But of course, as industrial hemp has been bred for very different purposes than medicinal or recreational cannabis, they’ve had a lot of work to do, and the work is far from over.
So let’s break it down – what’s the herb like? Is it “good enough”? How does it compare to high-THC weed?
Well, first of all, the appearance of all three samples is good. Light green, well-formed (although generally small) buds, well trimmed and dried, with good fragrance. The Primo Brown has a light, herbaceous aroma, with an earthy undertone reminiscent of old-school Afghan-derived strains like the Master Kush. The Toro Scatenato has a woody, slightly spicy scent; the O’green, my personal favorite, has a distinct, sharp citrus aroma with a slight earthiness, quite similar to OG Kush in taste.
So, all three samples pass the aroma test. They may be a little earthy, with lower overall terpene content than I’m personally accustomed to – but compared to the average quality of commercial, black-market cannabis in Italy, it’s really not bad at all.
The flavors are generally unsurprising, matching their fragrance profiles fairly well. Again, not exactly an explosion of flavor – but on the other hand, there is no residual taste of chemicals or anything concerning. Sam Bread let me know that their crop is grown in coco using the Canna Coco nutrient line – a perfectly acceptable choice by most growers’ standards.
Then, arguably the most important aspect – the effects, which are genuinely pleasant and enjoyable. It provides a light, relaxed kind of buzz. It “takes the edge off” without causing actual inebriation, and is somewhat reminiscent of the effect of certain herbal smoking blends containing substances such as Valerian or Wild Mallow. For a daytime smoke that will allow you to remain active and clear-headed, all three of these samples are worth checking out!
At retail prices, Green Lab Italia charges between €36 and €42 for three grams of herb, which is roughly similar to the street price for the same quantity of THC-rich cannabis. At wholesale prices, we have heard of indoor hemp producers charging as much as €3000 per kilogram of dried, trimmed flowers, which is comparable to the cost of high-THC cannabis in some parts of Europe. But here in Italy, a kilogram of black-market cannabis usually costs more like €7000.
Many people out there would be happy to smoke these high-grade hemp products. They potentially represent a higher (or at least more consistent) level of quality than that available at everyday street level in Italy. Of course, as the companies selling legal cannabis are legal entities themselves, identifiable and accountable if consumer health is ever jeopardized, there’s a much lower risk that they will cut corners and take risks with the safety of their products, as many black market producers are still doing.
Compared to the top examples of medicinal-grade, high-CBD cannabis available today, these legal cannabis flowers obviously fall some way short, in terms of terpene profile and resin production. But given the limitations of the EU-registered hemp varieties, Green Lab Italia is doing an excellent job of turning seed-hemp varieties into pleasant smokeables!