Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Albania Declares Itself Marijuana-Free

Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri says 99.2% of cannabis plants seen on aerial maps have been destroyed so far this year.
15:20, UK, Wednesday 16 September 2015
A cameraman watches police burn 1.6 tonnes (1,600 kilograms) of cannabis in a valley southeast of Tirana
A cameraman looks on in 2014 as police burn 1.6 tones of cannabis
Albania says its campaign against the drugs trade is going well with most of the marijuana plants in the country being destroyed.
Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri said 99.2%, or 690,000 cannabis plants in 44 hectares (109 acres) seen on aerial maps, have been destroyed so far this year.
Members of the Albanian special police force climb a mountain near the village of Lazarat
Police men climbing a mountain near the village in last year's raid
Mr Tahiri said drug growers had moved to high mountainous areas to plant cannabis, using small planes to take it abroad.
"The fight against drugs knows no end," he said. "It has a high cost and it is extremely difficult, but it continues."
Video: Police Burn Village's Marijuana
The southern European country is a major producer of the plant and the authorities started their fight against the drugs trade last year.
Police have so far destroyed about 550,000 cannabis plants and 102 tons of marijuana with an estimated market value of €7bn (£5.5bn) - representing more than two-thirds of the country's annual gross domestic product.
The clampdown on the drugs trade began when police stormed the southern village of Lazaret with armoured personnel carriers, coming under automatic weapon and rocket fire as drug growers defended their crops.
Video: Pot Goes Flying In High-Speed Chase
Last year's raid on the village, which lies 200km (125 miles) south of the capital, Tirana, resulted in a policeman being killed.
Italy and the US have congratulated Albania's leaders on their success so far and promised continued support - they have law enforcement staff in place to help local police.
Prime Minister Edi Rama says the police operation against drug cultivation has cost the criminal gangs billions of euros.

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