Medical cannabis producer Highlands Investments from Lesotho secured the sale of 8.5 tonnes of pure cannabis flowers for the European market that will be shipped to North Macedonia. The shipment is believed to be the world’s largest single legal cannabis export to date.
In July, North Macedonia endorsed a draft law on the control of narcotic drugs, which allows the export of dried cannabis flowers in line with EU rules. Skopje is developing a medical cannabis industry and the government is considering legalising the drug to encourage hospitality and tourism too.
Highlands cultivates, processes and packages high-quality THC and CBD cannabis flower for the production of medical grade cannabis products.
“We believe this to be one of the largest legal shipments of medical grade cannabis to date and is a significant milestone for our business,” the company said.
Highlands said that this shipment follows a previously successful shipment of 176.5kg of THC flower exported to Europe in April, without specifying the name of the recipient country.
The company said that according to official reports, the European cannabis market is forecast to reach $3.8bn by 2025.
The news that a major cannabis flower shipment was intended for North Macedonia was published by local media on August 18, according to which the deal is worth $85mn.
The opposition VMRO-DPMNE immediately accused the authorities of "trade with narcotics", saying that Lesotho is a small, corrupt, impoverished country in south Africa whose government controls cannabis plantations.
“[North] Macedonia is becoming a drug trade base in the Balkans,” former foreign minister and member of VMRO-DPMNE Antonio Milososki said in a Facebook post on August 18.
VMRO-DPMNE spokesperson Dimce Arsovski said that “is obvious that the country under the leadership of PM [Zoran] Zaev has become the most attractive country for the drug and cannabis business.”
“Moreover, it is obvious that not all of the 50 companies that get licenses for growing marijuana in [North] Macedonia, operate and it is easier to import from foreign countries such as Lesotho,” he said.
VMRO-DPMNE officials also claim that Zaev's close relatives are involved in the medical cannabis business.
Skopje legalised the use of medical cannabis in 2016, when VMRO-DPMNE was on power. In November 2020, Zaev said that he supports the decriminalisation and legalisation of cannabis consumption, saying that this will help the tourism and hospitality industry in the country.
In June 2021, medical cannabis producer NYSK Holdings became the first company in North Macedonia to receive a license to export dried cannabis flowers, which was needed for the company to start exports to Poland.