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Albania legalizes cannabis for medicinal and industrial purposes to boost tax revenue

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The Albanian Parliament took a significant step last Friday, July 21, by legalizing cannabis for medicinal purposes and for industrial use, with 69 votes in favour, 23 against and 3 abstentions. Albania has decided authorize limited and controlled cultivation of cannabis plants in an attempt to increase their tax revenues, but the decision faced strong opposition from some quarters.

As the option to authorize cannabis for medicinal and industrial purposes comes into force, questions arise around its regulation. The government's main belief is that authorizing restricted cannabis production could significantly increase tax revenues. Albania's fertile lands have long been conducive to cannabis cultivation and growth, attracting traffickers who exploit the country's weak governance in the post-Communist era.

However, the scenario changed after the left-wing Socialist Party government, led by Prime Minister Edi Rama, took power in 2013. The government made eradicating the country's cannabis plants a top priority. Over the next two years, it launched an intensive campaign and successfully destroyed millions of cannabis plants, valued at around €7 billion ($8,5 billion). This amount corresponded to more than two-thirds of the country's annual gross domestic product at the time.

Edi Ram, Prime Minister of Albania. Photo: DR

The crackdown on cannabis cultivation has been met with resistance and violence. In 2014, during a raid in a southern village, a police officer lost his life when cultivators opened fire on the authorities with automatic weapons and mortars. The police were forced to use armored vehicles against the population. Despite progress made in cracking down on cannabis cultivation, Albania remains a major transit point for drug trafficking. Although the police still take action against isolated cases of cannabis cultivation, these incidents have significantly decreased compared to a decade ago. The recent decision by the Albanian Parliament to legalize cannabis for medicinal and industrial purposes demonstrates the country's willingness to explore alternative approaches to drug regulation. By allowing limited and controlled cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes, Albania seeks to exploit potential tax revenues, while recognizing the importance of responsible regulation. As the nation moves forward, it continues to face the challenges associated with the drug trade and strives to create a safer, more controlled environment for its citizens.

All documents regarding the proposal approved by the Parliament of Albania can be found here, which are only available in Albanian.

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