From: Alice Taylor
Interior Minister Says Cannabis Trafficking From Albania has Decreased

The Minister of Interior, Sander Lleshaj stated that the amount of cannabis trafficked from Albania has decreased.

In his speech during the meeting of the National Integration Council, Lleshaj said:

“The amount of cannabis trafficked from Albania has decreased significantly. The number of migrants caught on the border with Greece has doubled.”

He added that the government will continue the effort to integrate the country into the European Union and meet the expectations of citizens.

The facts are that Albania is 6th globally for cannabis resin imports to Europe according to the World Drug Report from the United Nations. This covered a time frame between 2014 and 2018. During this time, it declined but was then on an upward trajectory from 2018.

Earlier this year, the Italian Antimafia division reported for 2019 that Albania is Europe’s main marijuana source. It also said the country is a key transit point. for heroin coming in from Afghanistan and Central Asia. It added that revenue from these activities is often reinvested into Albania in tourism and construction.

RAI3 also reported that cultivation of cannabis in Albania had increased by 1200% in the last year (2019). Albanian authorities vehemently denied the accusation, made by Italian Prosecutor Giacomo Cataldi and reported by journalist Valerio Cataldi.

The Belgrade Centre for Security and Policy predicted that cannabis cultivation in Albania would increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This would be due to a lack of police supervision as their work is directed elsewhere. It noted that cannabis is still “very much present on the market” in the region.

Europol also echoed this prediction. It noted that Albania, “a producer of herbal cannabis for the European market” was likely to produce more of the drug due to law enforcement resources being diverted to managing the pandemic.

Then in June, Minister of the Interior Sander Lleshaj admitted during a virtual meeting with the Chief of the State Police, Ardi Veliu, that cannabis was being cultivated in the country’s main districts. These included Gjirokastra, Shkodra, Durres, Vlora, Lezha, Berat and Elbasan.

Most recently, the Civil Society Observatory said that Albanians are shifting from growing cannabis locally and are growing it indoors in Western Europe instead. The report states that while Albania has favourable growing conditions, complemented by weak governance and corruption, robust police crackdowns since 2017 have just displaced it elsewhere. This includes countries like Spain, the UK, the Netherlands, and Belgium.

It also predicted that 2020 could see an increase in production due to the COVVID-19 lockdown.

In October, the State Police made an extraordinary statement against the media, accusing them of fake news over reporting of the situation regarding cannabis in Albania.