Police in Albania have kicked off a nationwide operation to eradicate domestic cannabis growth and exportation.
The Albanian police force has dispatched an estimated 3,100 officers across the country, according to a statement.
The officers will be on the ground, searching various locations for cannabis plants and seeds.
This plant eradication operation will cover popular cannabis growth spots such as abandoned houses, tunnels, defunct army depots, and greenhouses.
The operation is yet another effort by the Albanian government to rid the country of its reputation as a major cannabis exporter in Europe.
Major Steps Being Taken to Rid the Country of Cannabis
Dubbed “Europe’s cannabis paradise,” the Albanian economy has, for the longest time, been dependent on the illicit marijuana trade.
However, in the recent years, the Albanian police have begun gaining ground in the war against the illegal trade, with major strides being made in the past couple of years alone.
Last year, the Albanian police destroyed a record 2.5 million cannabis plants, making 2016 aptly named “the year of cannabis.” In addition to that, 5,204 cannabis fields were identified by the authorities.
These fields ranged in size and sophistication, with some being small scale and unkempt while others feature elaborate irrigation schemes and 24-hour protection by armed guards.
Although only a quarter the number of plants destroyed in 2016 were destroyed in 2015, the government’s campaign against the trade is picking up the pace as more and more farms are being discovered and destroyed.
In addition to the destruction of the plants, the police have also seized numerous metric tons of cannabis being shipped across the border in boats headed for Italy and Greece.
Due to the extent of the trade in the country, however, the campaign to end the growing of cannabis in Albania has thrown many of the lower class citizens back into poverty.
With farms having served as major employment sources for people living below the poverty line in the country, the destruction of these farms is also the destruction of many livelihoods.
Drug Lords Wising Up to Police Strategies
The Albanian marijuana trade is a lucrative one, and not just because it provides a livelihood for the unskilled workers in Albania.
Research conducted by DW shows that the average drug lord, who has managed to keep his operation away from the authorities, earns approximately $212 dollars per kilo.
And as the police close in on Albanian cannabis farms, the drug lords are developing new strategies to counter their efforts.
At the moment, the efforts of the Albanian police have not yet made a significant impact on this trade since the drug lords are producing more than the amount being destroyed.
Government affiliations could be what aid these crime organizations to stay afloat even in the wake of this nationwide crackdown.
Cannabis Export to Italy Tripled Last Year
Despite the police’s efforts, the cannabis trade appears to be as strong as ever.
In fact, cannabis traffic to Italy in 2016 was thrice the normal quantity, a statistic that led to a convergence of senior officials in Tirana, including Italian anti-mafia official Franco Roberti, to discuss the increase in the planting of cannabis within Albania.