Interior minister says Albania has won the fight against cannabis cultivation

By bne IntelliNews August 12, 2019

Albania’s Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj said on August 10 that the country has won the fight against the cultivation of cannabis, rejecting opposition claims of links between the government and drug traffickers.

The fight against corruption and drug trafficking is one of the priorities of the Albanian government led by Prime Minister Edi Rama, as part of its efforts to launch EU accession talks later this year. 

The country was previously known as a major marijuana producer — at its peak, the cultivation of cannabis accounted for about half of Albania’s GDP — until a government crackdown in 2014 when it launched a large-scale military operation at Lazarat, known as Europe’s “marijuana mountain”. This significantly reduced the number of cannabis plantations, with Rama claiming in 2017 that large-scale plantations had been almost wiped out.

“Cultivation of cannabis in Albania, captured by neighboring countries, has fallen to historic low levels,” Lleshaj said in a Facebook post.

Lleshja responded to a statement issued by the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) last week following a documentary broadcast by Italy’s TV Rai 3, in which the government was accused of links with organised crime and drug traffickers.

"The programme broadcasted by Rai 3 was enough for the opposition to jump, as usual, to hallucinatory conclusions, which is truly regrettable," the minister said.

Lleshaj added the truth is very different from the documentary, which he called a “mishmash worthy of illustrating the fake news epidemic".

“Thanks to the close cooperation with its Italian partners Albania has won the fight against cannabis," Lleshaj wrote.

“The criminal networks and organisations operating in this area have been hit hard in all aspects, including financial,” the minister added.

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