Europe’s former cannabis capital selected as one of Albania’s future agribusiness villages

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times January 23, 2018 16:25

Europe’s former cannabis capital selected as one of Albania’s future agribusiness villages

Story Highlights

  • Since a mid-2014 police crackdown, Lazarat, a village some 7 km off the UNESCO World Heritage site of Gjirokastra, has lost its shine and lavish lifestyle and much of its population of few thousands has left

Related Articles

TIRANA, Jan. 23 – Europe’s once cannabis capital, the Lazarat village in southern Albania, has been selected by the government as one of the 100 villages that will have their infrastructure upgraded in a bid to make them agribusiness oriented by promoting local agriculture products.

Since a mid-2014 police crackdown, Lazarat, a village some 7 km off the UNESCO World Heritage site of Gjirokastra, has lost its shine and lavish lifestyle and much of its population of few thousands has left.

Almost four years after the collapse of its internationally acclaimed pot industry, the village has lost most of its youngsters and luxury cars and agriculture and sheep farming is the only thing the elderly people remaining there can do to earn a living.

Ironically enough, Albania’s most famous cannabis cultivation site was one of the few villages where pot was not grown in 2015 and 2016 when cannabis cultivation boomed almost nationwide, triggering international concern over Albania as Europe’s largest outdoor cannabis producer and trafficker.

“Now the only thing that has remained of Lazarat is poverty that sits within the luxury villas, many of which built on illegal proceeds. The Lazarat young men who used to carry guns and drive luxury cars have now left their home village and moved abroad or to Tirana for a better life,” local media wrote about Lazarat in the early days of 2018.

Meanwhile, the elderly people who have remained there hardly manage to make ends meet and buy on credit from the local village store.

Lazarat, 200 kilometers south of the capital, Tirana, was cracked down in mid-2014 in a police operation that destroyed 102 metric tons of marijuana and 530,000 marijuana plants with an estimated street value of some €6 billion, worth about half of the country’s annual gross domestic product.

A veteran officer of the Albania’s elite commando army unit who had served in both Afghanistan and Iraq with NATO troops was shot dead during the crackdown.

With agriculture and its sheep farming as its strongest points, the once cannabis capital is trying to return to normality after more than a decade as an outlaw village.

The Theth and Valbona mountain tourism villages in northern Albania, Shengjergj and Pellumbas on Mount Dajti outside Tirana, the Dhermi and Vuno coastal villages along the southern Albanian Riviera and Lin and Tushemisht across the Albanian part of Lake Ohrid, southeast of the country, are among the 100 villages selected as part of the integrated rural development project Albania intends to apply from 2018 to 2020.

Albania’s Agriculture Minister Niko Peleshi says the ‘100 villages’ project will upgrade the selected villages’ infrastructure and public services and promote agritourism by offering incentives and grants to support local characteristic agriculture products.

Italian actor Gabriel Garko will star in “Lazarat Burning” a Hollywood movie based on the real story of world famous notorious Albanian marijuana growing village of Lazarat.

Residents of this village had earlier voiced concern the movie scheduled for release in 2018 will further worsen stereotypes about them and Albania as a cannabis producing country.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times January 23, 2018 16:25