Albanian gov't working to legalize cultivation of medical cannabis

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 10, 2020 12:21

Albanian gov't working to legalize cultivation of medical cannabis

TIRANA, May 9 - The Albanian government is close to concluding a draft law which allows for the cultivation of medical cannabis in the country. Prime Minister Edi Rama made the announcement during a live conference alongside EU Ambassador to Albania Luigi Soreca on the occasion of 'Europe Day' on Saturday. According to Rama, the government has been working on the draft law for a year now after continuous consultations with foreign experts.

"The draft will be available very soon for public discussion, just like the one on the fiscal amnesty, which is ready and is being discussed with several international institutions," Rama said, emphasizing the importance of these discussions.

EU delegation denies involvement

Following several media inquiries referring to Rama's statement, the EU delegation to Albania stepped in to clarify that it had not been involved "in preparation, drafting or consultation of draft reports concerning plans for cultivation and legalization of cannabis for medical purposes in Albania."

Furthermore, the Prime Minister 's announcement sparked reactions from the LSI party leader Monika Kryemadhi, who praised the EU Delegation for clarifying its disinvolvement in Rama's "disinformation campaign" and misuse of the EU's image for purposes related to the electoral process. 

Meanwhile, during the same day, this issue was also commented by the DP leader Lulzim Basha. "He demanded the legalization of cannabis and has started the cannabis process all over the country. The partners are very well informed," Basha wrote.

Increase of cannabis cultivation

General Prosecutor Olsian Cela said that cannabis cultivation has increased mainly in four districts; Vlora, Kruja, Shkodra and Gjirokastra. He stressed that cooperation between police and the prosecution is flawed.

According to his analysis and inquiries to the Prosecution, no documents explain the extent of this cooperation. "Today, there is no official document compiled by the State Police and the Prosecution to analyze the reasons why it happened," said Chief Prosecutor Çela.

In this line, several experts are hesitant towards the government's proposal.

"I am afraid of a parallel criminal activity. In terms of security it does not add or subtract anything. It should be started slowly and well before a certain decision is made. "

Another economy expert warns that strict rules need to be applied in this kind of business, as in countries

"We have to be very careful and it has to be a state monopoly with very strict rules. In many countries, this business generates billions of dollars. "

Based on North Macedonia's model, the law requires companies to have a bank guarantee of one million euros and at least 15 employees, which significantly increases costs. However, control mechanisms are still lacking, as various non-governmental organizations have also called on the authorities to follow global trends in marijuana legalization, it seems that this decision is still a long way off.

Currently, cannabis possession - excluding amounts for personal use-, cultivation and transport is 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 and 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.

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."

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 10, 2020 12:21