The Albanian government has published draft legislation for the legalisation of medical cannabis, simultaneously inviting public consultation and fury from opposition lawmakers.
The announcement comes shortly after the release of the World Drug Report 2022 from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in which Albania was named as one of the top countries worldwide for cannabis cultivation and distribution.
The draft legislation establishes a national agency for the control and monitoring of the cultivation and processing of cannabis for medical and industrial purposes, as well as the production of its by-products. The bill would also allow for medical cannabis and industrial hemp production for up to 150 hectares of land beginning in 2023.
Licenses for cannabis production would be issued by the Council of Ministers for 15 years, with the right of renewal.
At the same time, medical cannabis businesses planning to operate in Albania’s medical cannabis and industrial hemp sectors must prove they hold capital over $86,000, employ at least 15 people, and pay a fee of 1.5% of annual company turnover.
Under the draft legislation, the cultivation, production and trade of medical cannabis would be permitted for export purposes only. This means that patients in Albania will still not have access to cannabis treatments, and local companies cannot utilise domestically produced industrial hemp.
The draft bill is currently available for public comment on Albania’s public consultation website, and will ultimately be forwarded to Parliament.
Opposition blocs have criticised the draft bill, with opposition MP Enkelejd Alibeaj slamming the proposal as “madness” in a Facebook post. According to opponents of the bill, the legalisation of medical cannabis will only further facilitate the production and trafficking of cannabis within the country under the guise of medical use.
Alibeaj also said that the draft bill would serve to benefit allies of Prime Minister Edi Rama only.
“The criteria and procedures defined in the draft law clarify that the licenses for this activity will only benefit Rama’s friends and allies,” he said. “Everyone knows that in a country where criminality and corruption are at the highest levels, keeping this activity under control is impossible.”
Alibeaj pointed to the case of Saimir Tahiri, former Interior Minister under Rama’s cabinet, as an example. Earlier this year, Tahiri was sentenced to three years and four months in prison for his role in facilitating drug trafficking, and accepting gifts from the relevant criminal group during his term in office.
A recent survey saw a majority of Albanians answer in favour of medical cannabis legalisation.
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