Gov't looking into possibility of legalizing cultivation of medical marijuana

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times April 6, 2020 15:56

Gov't looking into possibility of legalizing cultivation of medical marijuana

TIRANA, April 6 - The Albanian government is looking into the possibility of legalizing the cultivation of medical marijuana in the future. Prime Minister Edi Rama announced during an interview that the government is currently studying the possibility of legalizing the cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes only, similar to several countries which have already done so.

However, the Prime Minister did not imply that a decision may be taken in the near future. "We are very advanced, but we are not in the last chapter yet to legalize production [of cannabis] for medical reasons," Rama said.

Marijuana possession - excluding amounts for personal use-, cultivation and transport is currently illegal in Albania and there is no medical marijuana program. Nevertheless, the country has been a major transit point for drugs entering Europe from Asia and Latin America. In 2014, the police raided destroyed major cannabis plantations in the southeastern city of Lazarat, once considered as the drug capital of Europe. According to government data, the raid destroyed 102 tons of marijuana and 530,000 marijuana plants with an estimated market value at the time of 6.4 billion euros — more than 60 percent of the GDP.

Although the crackdown destroyed a significant amount of plantations, cultivation spread elsewhere across the country and more police operations followed.

According to the 2016 EC Progress Report on Albania, the police conducted 240 operations against drug cultivation and trafficking in 2015, which resulted in the identification of 4 634 cultivated parcels, the arrest of 402 offenders and the destruction of 797 422 narcotic plants, 246 008 more than in 2014. Moreover, in 2016, the Albanian cannabis market was thought to be worth 3.5 billion euros, which was then equal to about half of the country’s GDP.

As Lazarat no longer served as the biggest cannabis hub in the country, on August 3, 2019, on Tepelena Municipality Territory, three mini-parcels with 22, 30 and 20 square meters of space respectively, where found cultivated in vases and holes and 28 cannabis plants were confiscated.

The secret police reports provided similar information for varying amounts of cannabis which were confiscated on August 5, 14, 15 and September 23 respectively, as well as the arrests of certain individuals near the crime scenes. 

However, during the middle of February 2018, the Italian Guardia di Finanza presented a report for cannabis cultivation during 2018 which removed Albania from the cannabis cultivation map.

“Drop in plantations has been confirmed, only 27 out of 88 that existed in 2017 have been identified. There was also a significant drop in the amount of cannabis confiscated in Italy, with almost 81 percent within one year,” said Brigade General Giuseppe Arbore during the conference. 

Nevertheless, Albania continues to hold a bad reputation as Europe's cannabis hub; In the US Department of State 2019 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Albania was valued as being “both a source country of cannabis and, increasingly, a transit country for cocaine and heroin commanded largely by organized crime elements moving illicit drugs from source countries into European markets.”

The report added that efforts to prosecute cannabis growers, although extensive, have been uneven due to the hardships presented in disrupting a drug trafficking infrastructure that has developed over two decades.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times April 6, 2020 15:56