The four Albanian farmers who have been erroneously held in custody for over a month by the Albanian authorities on charges of growing cannabis drugs have been released and all charges dropped. A further round of analysis of the crops involved, which was orchestrated by the farmers' lawyer in Tirana, Mr Shaqir Hasani, and conducted by various Albanian experts, has confirmed that the crop is industrial hemp.

In mid July, the Albanian police carried out a mass raid of the areas surrounding the town of Dedaj in Northern Albania, destroying the crop and arresting four of the farmers, with another four, including the area's mayor going into hiding. The international project was aimed at providing much needed employment and income to this economically disadvantaged community. The hemp project was initiated and funded by Partnership for Growth, a Worthing based charity, after discussions with the Albanian authorities over a number of years. The hemp was to be used to make rugs which would be exported back for sale in the UK.

The particular variety of industrial hemp seed provided by the charity for the project is approved by the European Commission. This type typically contains such low levels of the psychoactive ingredient that it would be impossible for it to be used as a narcotic.

Legal advice has been provided to the charity and assistance given to the local lawyer on a pro bono basis by the London and Hungarian offices of international law firm Lovells. Advice on local issues has also been received from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the British Embassy in Tirana and the Tirana office of the UN Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Partnership For Growth hope to open discussions in the near future with the Albanian authorities as to how to compensate the farmers and their community and how to prevent such incidents of this sort from being repeated. The charity is still hoping that there will be a way forward to enable the rural economy in Albania to benefit from the job creation potential of industrial hemp.

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