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Cannabis Busts Continue in ‘Marijuana-Free’ Albania

Bill Weinberg

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Trying to live down its reputation as Europe’s top pot producer, two months ago Albania officially declared itself “marijuana-free,” with Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri boasting that 99.2 percent of cannabis plants seen on aerial maps had been destroyed.

That made for a total of 690,000 plants covering 44 hectares (109 acres), Tahiri said. After a series of paramilitary-style raids on the fertile valley towns where cannabis cultivation had become the economic mainstay, the remaining growers have reportedly been pushed up into inaccessible mountain areas.

Authorities are now going after the urban distribution network.

Last week, police announced a series of busts in the capital of Tirana as part of Operation Cifliku—named for the supposed crime family of that name. Four members of the Cifliku family were arrested, and 80 kilograms of hashish confiscated, along with small quantities of heroin and cocaine.

The hashish was likely imported rather than produced domestically, but there have also been big busts of local product since the “marijuana-free” declaration.

Late October saw a metric ton of herbaceous cannabis seized at the port of Durres. The shipment was discovered in a truck that was said to be bound for Italy, and the driver was arrested.

Bill Weinberg is based in New York City.

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