Mon Jan 9, 2006 11:52 AM ET
(Reuters) – Five Albanian villagers jailed for two weeks for growing
cannabis were set free after a court ruled the plant was actually
industrial hemp, raised with the help of a British foundation for
export to the United States.
“I never imagined I would be
pictured in the newspapers as the head of an international drug ring.
It’s one of those things that makes you cry and laugh at the same
time,” said Martin Pellumbi of the Shkrel area farmers’ association.
Minister Sokol Olldashi had appeared on a popular TV show to announce
to the country that police had seized a tonne of cannabis. His ministry
had no comment Monday.
It was the second time in five years that Albanian drug police mistook hemp for cannabis and arrested the growers.
Sativa L, or industrial hemp, contains far less tetrahydrocannabinol
(THC) than Cannabis Sativa, the recreational drug. The wrong analysis
cost a police expert her job in 2001.
Since toppling communism,
Albania has become a transit route for hard drugs. Cannabis is also
cultivated in remote mountain areas.