Albania is an interesting country in the weed game, because it acts as a hub for trafficking, as well as a main producer for illicit cannabis. Recently, Albanians were asked to vote yes or no on cannabis legalization, and came back with a resounding yes. The government is actually listening, and now promises a medical legalization.
Recently, Albanians made a yes vote for cannabis, and the government claims it will respond accordingly by legalizing cannabis for medical use. This is a news publication specializing in the cannabis and psychedelics fields of today, which you can play along with by signing up for THC Weekly Newsletter. Get your industry updates along with deals for vapes, edibles, and smoking paraphernalia, and cannabinoid products like HHC-O, Delta-8, Delta-9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP, and HHC. We only encourage buyers to purchase products they are happy with.
In the last year, Albania’s legislature held a National Consultation poll to establish citizen support for cannabis legalization. A majority of 308,000 Albanians voted yes on the cannabis measure, compared with 148,000 that voted no. 51,000 had no opinion on the subject. 560,000 participated in the poll. The poll specifically asked if citizens were cool with the authorization of production, processing, and export of medical cannabis.
In response, Prime Minister Edi Rama stated: “We will legalize cannabis for medical purposes, paving the way for new jobs and economic prosperity. What the public have stated will be done; there will be no debate.” According to Rama, this is a decision of the citizens, and the government will therefore implement it. Rama said nothing about a recreational legalization, but said that cultivating and exporting medical cannabis will be legalized.
As of yet, this has no bearing on recreational cannabis, or an update to personal use measures. Since no statement was made on these matters, the current assumption is that all other Albanian laws regarding cannabis will stay the same. When an official bill comes out, we’ll know more about what to expect.
Interestingly, whereas these legalizations are generally touted as a way to control the illicit drug trade, its actually posited that the opposite will happen in Albania upon this legalization going through. How much this response comes from fear, or simply from political opposition, is hard to say. According to Democrat MP Flamur Noka:
“After Rama and his cabinet make this decision, you should expect gangs to flourish and the drug trade to reach terrible dimensions in Albania. Do you see that the ministers are under the claws of organized crime, and do you believe that Rama’s 4-5 clients or businesspeople who he would license to cultivate cannabis will not be? Who will keep them safe from this heinous crime? Either it is a scenario that indirectly legalizes cannabis growing to crime, or those businessmen will become criminals because the government has changed.”
Cultivation in Albania
Others are less concerned about the security issues involved with allowing cannabis cultivation. Since Albanians made a yes vote to legalize medical cannabis, much has been said on both sides. Whereas Noka is skeptical of the whole thing, Deputy Interior Minister Julian Hodaj has a different view.
According to Hodaj, the Albanian government is going to license, supervise, and control the industry making for little room for problems. He went on, “It is about controlled areas and security measures. Not everyone can plant it. It will not be planted everywhere in Albania. There will be increased security measures on these planted areas.”
Hodaj continued, “There is no problem, we are talking about controlled cultivation, there will be licenses for some entities and not everyone can have a license.” He also went over precursor checks for credibility, and the supervising of the new industry, including periodic visits by law enforcement.
Opposition concerns are related to the ability of law enforcement and government to effectively oversee the new industry. Much of this fear stems from known corruption in law enforcement, the judicial system, and all government institutions. This is as per a US State Department report, though how much this compares to the corruption of other countries, is certainly debatable.
Albania and illicit cannabis trade
Part of the reason for concern, is the role Albania already plays in the illicit drug trade. Albanians might have made a vote in favor of cannabis, but cannabis is already a big industry in the country, albeit a black market one only. Albania is considered an illicit cannabis source country, and even has operations in other European countries for cultivating the weed. This is also as per the US State Department’s 2022 report on global narcotics trafficking.
This is backed up by another US report through the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, which said “Albania is a source country of cannabis and a home base for organised crime groups moving illicit drugs from source countries into European markets.” Cannabis seizures led officials to estimate the illicit cannabis market brings in €4 billion euro a year. This is around half of the country’s GDP for a year.
The United Nations also chimes in, saying Albania is one of the top European countries for illegal cannabis production and exportation. And reminds that the country also functions as a transfer hub for drugs like heroin and cocaine, which are trafficked to different places through the country. In a 2017 National Drug Report, Albania was fingered as a main exporter, mainly to the EU and the Western Balkans.
The country has been on a rampage to destroy illegal operations in order to appease EU requirements, since it wants to join the EU. For example, in 2015 as many as 1,198 cultivation plantations were found and about 797,422 plants were destroyed. In opposition to this, Albanian smugglers resorted to different tactics, like fishing boats and high-speed zodiac inflatable boats, and making/using new networks for getting drugs in and out of the country. It’s resilience in the market earned it the title of ‘Colombia of Europe’.
In fact, a 2020 Italian public broadcast on Rai 3 claimed Albania’s illicit cannabis production actually increased by as much as 1200% despite government measures to drown out the industry. That percentage was supposedly leaked by Italian police personnel, and there is no confirmation. Albania is one of the biggest suppliers of cannabis to Italy, though, so it certainly makes sense for Italy to keep tabs.
Cannabis in Albania
In terms of internal cannabis law, cannabis is illegal for all uses in Albania as per the 1994 Albania Law of Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances. Having said this, the following year the Criminal Code of the Republic of Albania came out, and didn’t mention cannabis use as a crime, creating a decriminalization loophole.
To clarify the gray area, the government set a one-dose limit. If an offender is caught with more than a single dose, they can incur trafficking charges. If the person can prove it was only for their use, they are likely to get treatment only. This creates a conundrum in that a person can’t legally buy cannabis or grow it, or have it prescribed by a doctor. But if they’re caught self-medicating with it, this is somehow okay.
Cannabis cultivation comes with 3-7 years in prison. Hemp and CBD are also illegal. CBD is not differentiated by law in Albania, and maintains the same restrictions as THC, meaning the same personal use loophole applies here too. Hemp production is likewise illegal, though there’s been more push recently to change this, in light of the economic possibilities that come with an industrial hemp market.
It’s hard to know whether Albania will follow through on this or not. There was no official government vote, and what the people voted on, isn’t a binding measure. Albanians made a vote for their desire for cannabis legalization, but there’s nothing saying it must happen now. Perhaps the biggest incentive, and the reason it likely will, is the same for many countries. Cannabis is a growing and lucrative industry, and everyone wants to get in on it to improve their economies.
One interesting aspect to all this, is that while some legislators fight hard not to let their people have their way, Rama is listening. Ige of Hawaii won’t sign off on cannabis bills passed by congress, and governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota was willing to bring in the Supreme Court to overrule a voter-approved legalization measure. Albania, on the other hand, seems like its actually listening to its people. Maybe its just timing, and this was coming anyway. But it sure is nice to think that perhaps, the governance heard what the people had to say, and are giving them what they want.
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