There's a new war in the Balkans: Albanian police versus the farmers who have made the country Europe's biggest producer of illegal marijuana. After years of turning a blind eye to the trade that rakes in billions of dollars a year—almost half the country's GDP—hundreds of police officers backed by armored vehicles have been deployed to the pot-farming village of Lazarat and are battling villagers armed with RPGs, mortars, and machine guns, the AP reports. The government says it is now in control of around half the village and has burned 11 tons of marijuana, a small fraction of the 900 tons the village is believed to produce every year.
The crackdown, which has only injured one police officer and three villagers despite the heavy gunfire, is part of the new Socialist government's attempt to stamp out the trade and boost its bid to join the European Union, the BBC reports. At Bloomberg, Leonid Bershidsky says he has a better idea. "Brussels should consider legalizing marijuana throughout the EU," he writes. "Then Albania, with its well-developed cannabis industry, could be welcomed to the union as a country with a legitimate, honorable specialization." (Read more Albania stories.)