Will Albania’s EU Membership Be Scuttled by Domestic Cannabis Production?


Marguerite Arnold

October 15th, 2018

Policy


Cannabis has now entered the highest levels of the European Union’s political debate. So much so that production (albeit of the illicit kind) in one country, Albania, is now being used by some members of the EU in Brussels to refuse the country’s bid to join the economic union. Most notably the loudest objections are coming from France, which has yet to move on cannabis reform in general.

According to the Financial Times in 2017, at least, Albania produces the largest amount of illegal cannabis in any country on the continent. This in turn, serves as financing for organized crime that, according to authorities, seeps into Europe.

Production In The Ring States

Is this hypocritical? Does it smell suspiciously like a debate about both medical use and broader recreational reform on a European level that is frequently going off the rails these days for no reason?

Yes, to both questions. Especially given the current state of cannabis production gearing up all over the Mediterranean, from Spain in the west, to Greece and Malta further east. Not to mention what is going on in Macedonia and other border EU countries.

Cheaper labour markets ringing the EU are beginning to wake up to the entire cannabis economy question.

And that is the real issue, beyond the Albanian debate itself.

The EU, at the Brussels level is not copacetic about regional cannabis reform and is well aware of what is going on in an emerging market. This is showing up in various faces all over the continent, from the Spanish police removing CBD products from shelves to the drama at the Deutsche Börse about clearing public cannabis stocks.

And in the meantime, member states, particularly those who have not moved on national reform at all, are using cannabis as a convenient political lever. See Albania.

What this situation really demonstrates is how political the cannabis debate really is right now in Europe. And how indicative of the ducking and dodging if not the size and number of political hoops those in the market at this point, have had to jump through so far.

And how threatened, finally, the current status quo on cannabis reform really is.

The Impact On EU Reform

Regardless of both the immediate and long term impact on the Albanian situation, the forces of reform are afoot now at a regional not just a country level, in Europe. Expect the situation for the next several years to be fluid at a regional level while different sovereign countries adjust to a world of both still relatively open borders and legalizing cannabis.

This is exacerbated right now as the larger, legal Canadian LPs in particular, begin cultivation operations all over the continent and are setting up sophisticated distribution networks which span multiple countries (albeit with Germany still mostly as their largest destination point.)

It is also not going unnoticed that relatively poorer states with lower labour costs, i.e. on the fringes of EU economic activity, are eyeing the cannabis bandwagon with something akin to economic salvation. See the situation in Greece.

Add the additional political tensions of Brexit (where a still supposedly departing UK has now rescheduled the drug to a Schedule II, starting this month), and the topic of the great green plant is clearly causing headaches in Brussels that are not going to abate until cannabis legalization, finally, of some kind, is implemented at a regional economic bloc level.

In the meantime, the poorer countries of the region, hoping to play the cannabis card, as well as the companies now looking to exploit such opportunities, are going to have to engage in a continual political and lobbying game to make sure their newly found rights do not go up in smoke along with newly hatched cultivation and export dreams.

About Marguerite Arnold



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