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Last Updated: Monday, 9 January 2006, 17:30 GMT
Albania red-faced in hemp blunder
By Matt Prodger
BBC News, Belgrade

Cannabis plant
Cannabis plants look similar to their less intoxicating hemp cousins
A UK charity is to sue the Albanian government after being accused of cultivating the drug cannabis for the black market.

It comes after Albanian police arrested several farmers and seized over a tonne of legitimate industrial hemp which was destined for the US textile industry.

Albania's interior minister even appeared on television to triumphantly announce a "major drugs haul".

The charity Partnership for Growth says it plans to sue for loss of earnings.

Family similarities

On the surface it seemed like an embarrassing mix-up which began after the minister's TV appearance.

However, the men arrested were in fact legitimate farmers and the crop in question was industrial hemp being grown for export to the United States.

A spokesman for the charity said that this was the second time its project had been targeted by Albanian police and that it was still owed more than $100,000 (56,667 or 82,926 euros) in compensation for the last seizure in 2001.

Albania is on a major transit route for drugs and cannabis is illegally cultivated in remote, lawless areas.

The charity said it was now reconsidering its decision to encourage the production of hemp - a crop identical in appearance to its black-market cousin, but lacking its narcotic qualities.


SEE ALSO:
Farmer plagued by 'dopey thieves'
16 Aug 05 |  South Yorkshire
Hemp sweets 'glamorise' cannabis
01 Apr 04 |  Manchester
Country profile: Albania
27 Nov 05 |  Country profiles


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