Albania’s hemp sector pursues growth after cannabis legalisation
Albania's local hemp industry association is surveying farmers to assess growth opportunities, following the country's legalisation of cannabis for medicinal and industrial use in July, the association announced on its X page on October 11.
Industrial hemp, derived from specific cannabis sativa cultivars, has diverse applications in textile, cosmetics, food and medicine. However, the development of a local cannabis industry is politically controversial given Albania’s long history of drug cultivation and trafficking.
The survey will identify support needs for cultivation zones, wholesale plans and legal understanding.
In July, the Albanian parliament passed a law regulating cannabis cultivation, production and distribution for medical and industrial purposes. The legislation framework allows experienced foreign companies with prior industry experience from outside Albania to engage in cannabis cultivation.
Neighbouring North Macedonia has already pursued a similar strategy with some success. Among the companies active in North Macedonia are Canada-based wholesale cannabinoid company Instadose Pharma, which sees the proximity to the EU market as one of the benefits of operating there, a company executive told bne IntelliNews in 2021. Skopje legalised the use of medical cannabis in 2016.
The government intends for the cannabis industry to be tightly controlled, but the legalisation plans were hotly contested by opposition politicians.
Last year, Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha slammed the initial proposal from the government, saying it would be an “immense support” for crime around the world and a “black dot” on Albania.
Albania is still one of the top countries worldwide for cannabis cultivation and distribution, according to the World Drug Report 2022 from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The 2022 World Drug Report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) revealed that Albania is one of the top countries worldwide for cannabis cultivation and distribution.
This is despite well publicised efforts by the Albanian government to eradicate its cultivation, notably with the large-scale operation at Lazarat – dubbed Europe’s ‘marijuana mountain’ back in 2014, shortly before Albania secured EU candidate status. However, reports since then indicate that drug cultivation has been rising. The country also lies on the Balkan route for transportation of heroin to Europe.
Last month, more than 200 people were arrested in Albania in a massive anti-drugs operation spanning large parts of the country. The operation, codenamed “Temple”, targeted a large-scale network involved in the distribution of cannabis, cocaine and heroin.
Targeting illegal cannabis cultivation is one of the objectives of Albania’s first satellites, launched into space in January. Tirana uses the satellites to detect crimes such as drug cultivation, illegal construction and logging.
MPs set off flares and burnt papers inside the Albanian parliament, as part of a series of of acts of civil disobedience by opposition MPs.
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