Cannabis is legalized in states across America. But what’s going on in other countries? Thus far, European countries have been hesitant to embrace marijuana legalization. Germany recently set out as a trailblazer by legalizing marijuana. Now Albania legalizes medical cannabis. But not everyone is happy about it.

Albania Legalizes Medical Cannabis

The Albania legalizes medical cannabis decision is an attempt to boost tax revenue in the country.

The Albanian Parliament voted 69-23 in favor of the bill that set guidelines for the cultivation, production, and exportation of medical cannabis and industrial hemp.

The bill was first introduced by the Albanian government in June 2022. It has finally passed legislation.

What Does the Albania Legalizes Medical Cannabis Bill Entail?

Albania legalizes medical cannabis. So what does that mean for the country?

Plans are in the works to create a National Cannabis Control Agency guided by the health minister. The primary goal of the agency will be to oversee, regulate, and inspect cannabis cultivation processing, and the production of its products. The organization will also monitor the industry to ensure everything is done by the book.

The Licensing Commission will grant licenses to people who wish to export, process, cultivate and distribute cannabis and cannabis by-products.

Eligibility is contingent on at least three years of experience producing, cultivating, and distributing medical cannabis. The applicant must also own at least 51% of the company’s shares and must be involved in producing cannabis products in a country that has been a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for at least five years.

The person must also have a good manufacturer certification as recognized by the European Medicines Agency or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration dating at least three years back. They must also have a company capital of at least $1 million.

The Albania legalizes medical cannabis bill also sets an area for cultivating the product. It should not exceed 200 hectares. Each licensed unit of the area should range from five to ten hectares.

Limitations Involving the Albania Legalizes Medical Cannabis Bill

medical doctor holding cannabis leaf and bottle of cannabis oil on white background.

Because the Albania legalizes medical cannabis bill is so strict, no Albanian company qualifies.

The language of the bill also suggests that medical cannabis and industrial hemp operations will be for export only. It does not address establishing a domestic cannabis market. As a result, medical cannabis patients will lack access to treatment, and local companies won’t benefit from industrial hemp applications.

Considering the limitations, it’s obvious that the bill is meant to encourage foreign companies to invest in Albania so it can increase its tax revenue.

Opposition to the Albania Legalizes Medical Cannabis Bill

The Albania legalizes medical cannabis bill was met with strong opposition. Critics wondered why the socialist government approved the bill without conducting a study that weighed its economic benefits as compared to potentially harmful effects on crime and health.

Albania has been a hub for drug trafficking due to a lack of strong governance after a switch from Communist rule. Criminals target it as a destination to transport drugs from its ports to other countries across Europe.

Illegal cultivation has been on the rise in Albania. It has been named the seventh-largest cannabis cultivator in the world in a 2022 World Drug Report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The socialist government has been attempting to solve the issue. When socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama came into power in 2013, he focused on destroying cannabis plants in the country.

He successfully destroyed $7 billion euros ($8.5 billion USD) worth of cannabis plants accounting for over two-thirds of Albania’s annual domestic growth product at the time.

Despite his efforts, Albania is still a prime trafficking route for cannabis and hard drugs. Law enforcement still crack down on growers, but efforts have declined over the last decade.

Weed Legalization in Europe

Albania legalizes medical cannabis. It is one of the many European countries that have embraced medical marijuana. Countries are also looking at the possibility of legalizing recreational marijuana, but they are facing opposition from the European Union (EU).

European countries are inspired by legalization measures in Canada and the U.S. They feel that a cannabis market can benefit health, increase tax revenues, and reduce stigmas regarding medical marijuana.

Germany recently legalized recreational weed joining Malta and Georgia. The Czech Republic and Prague are working on bills to legalize weed.

Luxembourg has passed a bill allowing residents to grow marijuana for personal use. Switzerland, which is outside the EU, approved marijuana sale and consumption in Zurich. In the Netherlands, where weed is technically illegal though tolerated, plans to launch a pilot program to test the benefits of cannabis sales by the end of the year.

These countries are facing opposition from their governments on an EU level as they struggle to come up with a bill that matches EU laws, international drug treaties, and public health regulations.

Some feel legalizing recreational weed in some countries could negatively affect neighboring countries that oppose legalization.

The European Commission, an executive arm of the European Union, did not release details of national discussions but revealed it was following developments on cannabis legalization.

“We are aware, and we are following closely these developments in the Member States, notably to understand the impact of changes in cannabis policies. This includes the impact on health, crime, environment, or social aspects,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

Currently, selling illegal drugs is “punishable by effective proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties” according to EU regulation. But personal consumption is not illegal. Legalization also counters international drug treaties, but has not been an issue for Canada and Paraguay, two countries that have permitted the drug without serious consequences.

Advocates must also consider the Europeans Citizens Initiative which allows citizens to propose EU policies to the commission if they gain the support of 1 million votes. The Initiative is a possible legalization solution.

Either way, it seems like recreational cannabis will become legalized throughout Europe eventually. As Czech Republic drug coordinator Jindrich Voboril said, “I don’t think it’s stoppable”.