In a landmark decision, Albania’s Parliament has legalised the medicinal use of cannabis, a move that could revolutionise the once notorious trafficking hub’s relationship with the plant as reported by the Associated Press.
The approval, which passed with a 69-23 vote last Friday, allows for the limited and controlled cultivation of cannabis plants, despite considerable opposition.
The specifics surrounding the regulation of medical cannabis are yet to be detailed.
However, the Albanian government anticipates that a controlled cannabis industry could significantly contribute to the national economy via tax revenues.
Historically, Albania has been a hotbed for marijuana growth, as drug traffickers took advantage of the country’s lax governance following the dissolution of its communist regime.
This burgeoning industry saw the cultivation of cannabis plants reaching heights that made Albania one of Europe’s primary marijuana crossroads.
Upon assuming power in 2013, the left-leaning Socialist Party, led by Prime Minister Edi Rama, prioritised the eradication of cannabis plantations.
The campaign culminated in the destruction of an estimated seven billion euros ($8.5 billion) worth of plants over a two-year period – a figure equating to over two-thirds of Albania’s annual GDP at that time.
The crackdown, however, did not come without a cost.
A police officer lost his life in 2014 during a raid on a southern village, as law enforcement faced heavy resistance from drug growers, including automatic weapon and rocket fire.
While Albania remains a significant pathway for the trafficking of hard drugs, cannabis growth has been considerably less prevalent compared to a decade ago due to ongoing police efforts.
The new legislation marks a significant policy shift and presents an opportunity for Albania to transition from an illicit trade hub to a regulated market participant in the medicinal cannabis industry.