Albania could legalize medical and industrial hemp only for export
The Albanian government announced, Thursday, June 30, the project to legalize the cultivation of medical cannabis and industrial hemp for companies that have such experience in European countries. The bill establishes a national agency for the control and supervision of the cultivation and processing of the cannabis plant for medical and industrial purposes and the production of its by-products.
Albania could join the list of European countries that have legalized the cultivation of medical cannabis and industrial hemp. However, cultivation, production and trade will be for export only.
The bill would authorize the production of medical cannabis and industrial hemp for up to 150 hectares of land from 2023. The Council of Ministers would issue licenses for the production of cannabis for a period of 15 years with a right of renewal .
Cannabis companies wishing to operate in the medical cannabis and industrial hemp sectors in Albania must show that they have a capital of more than 86000 dollars, employ at least 15 people and pay a tax of 1,5% of the turnover. annual affairs of the company. But the most important thing in this bill is that the cultivation, production and trade of medical cannabis and industrial hemp will be reserved for export.
This means patients will not have access to medical cannabis treatments and local businesses will not be able to benefit from the many uses of industrial hemp.
The draft law is currently undergoing public comment on the public consultation site, after which it will be forwarded to Parliament. Political opposition blocs have criticized the bill proposed by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.
Opposition MP Enkelejd Alibeaj called the move "madness" in a Facebook post, as legalization would make it easier to produce cannabis for trafficking under the guise of medical use. Alibeaj accused the bill of only benefiting Rama's friends and allies.
“The criteria and procedures set out in the bill specify that licenses for this activity will only benefit friends and allies of Rama. Everyone knows that in a country where crime and corruption are at the highest level, keeping this activity under control is impossible,” he wrote.https://www.forbes.com/sites/dariosabaghi/2022/07/11/albania-may-legalize-export-only-medical-cannabis-and-industrial-hemp/?sh=a024d2d4cccf
Alibeaj notably mentioned the case of Saimir Tahiri, former interior minister under Rama's cabinet. Tahiri was sentenced in 2022 to three years and four months in prison because he facilitated drug trafficking for a criminal group through his inaction and received gifts from its members during his tenure.
The announcement of the project comes days after the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) ranked Albania seventh out of 154 countries for the cultivation and distribution of cannabis in its world drug report 2022.
The Balkan country is known to be the hub of drug trafficking. The country serves in particular as a sorting center for heroin from Eastern European countries to be transported to Europe.
Furthermore, Albania is considered one of the largest outside producers of illegal cannabis in Europe, despite the government's ruinous efforts to curtail its cultivation.
According to the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), Albanian organized crime has established one of the largest outdoor cannabis crops in Europe for more than two decades. Thus, the village of Lazarat and the mountainous region of Dukagjini have become the symbols of cannabis culture in the country.
Although the police seized tons of cannabis and thousands of plants in these two places in 2014, the illegal trade continues to increase to such an extent that in 2016 Albania witnessed an unprecedented spread of cultivation. cannabis across the country.
Law enforcement has stepped up its efforts against the phenomenon, bringing cultivation rates to historic lows over the past five years, but organized crime gangs have diversified the drug trade with a focus on cocaine.
Recreational cannabis is illegal in Albania, and it was included in the list of controlled substances by the Law on Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances established in 1994. Therefore, cultivation, production, trade, possession and donation are strictly prohibited.
Medical cannabis is also banned in the country. Doctors are therefore not allowed to prescribe it for health reasons, and the bill announced two weeks ago will not change the current situation.
According to a recent survey, 308000 Albanian citizens voted in favor of legalizing medical cannabis, while 148000 voted against and 51000 had no opinion on the issue. However, the decision to legalize medical cannabis and industrial hemp seems more like a purely economic decision than an extra effort to fight or contain organized crime.
By granting licenses to companies with capital, the bill is unlikely to reduce illicit trade. Furthermore, such legislation solely focused on export-oriented businesses would deprive Albanians of medicinal cannabis and industrial hemp.