Albanian Cannabis-Growing Village Greets Police With Gunfire
Residents of a southern Albanian village saw hundreds of police officers storm through their town recently, in an effort to curb what officials contend is the lawless cultivation of cannabis in the region. Hundreds of members of the Albanian police stormed the tiny village of Lazarat, located about 125 miles south of the Albanian capital city of Tirana. The villagers are infamous for their large scale cannabis grows, and now are building a reputation for defending their plants fiercely: According to news reports the villagers have fired machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades at the invading officers who were conducting a surprise drug raid by surrounding the village.
Surprisingly, there were no casualties during the recent skirmish and no reported injuries on either side. Lazarat has long been the headquarters of Albanian cannabis cultivation, which transformed the tiny Albanian village into a major producer of weed. The estimated production is in the area of 900 metric tons annually, with a value of more than $6 billion, which is accounting for a stunning 50% of Albania's gross national product.
But Albanian officials want to put a stop to the prolific industry in and around Lazarat, prompting them to dispatch hundreds of police officers, lead by Albania's chief of police and aided by officers of the special forces. The officers managed to destroying as many as 10,000 cannabis plants that were growing on seven different plots of land, in addition to damaging about 1,000 young plants that were ready to be transplanted into the ground.
Police say that a local army of more than two dozen armed men greeted them with gunfire when they arrived at the village of 5,000 residents. During the confrontation, police urged local residents to stay barricaded inside their homes for their own safety. Those involved in growing marijuana in Lazarat have very boldly fought every effort by law enforcement to curtail their allegedly illegal activities. They are even hostile to news media, with one local TV station reporting that masked gunmen stole their money and set their vehicle on fire when they tried to do a story about the thriving marijuana trade that exists in Lazarat. They clearly want to be left alone.
In the meantime the situation developed further: The Albanian police succeeded to bring the village under control after more than 800 officers were called in. One officer and two civilians were injured in an exchange of gunfire, however, no fatalities were reported. The police seized more than 10 tons of cannabis.