Albanian police seize marijuana in a storage building in the lawless village of Lazarat, 230 kilometers (140 miles) south of capital Tirana, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.(AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)
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Plumes of pungent pot smoke rose above the small but prosperous Albanian village of Lazarat Wednesday as police sought to drive out the gangs that have turned it into Europe's largest illegal marijuana producer.Set in a green plain overlooked by high hills, this sprawling village of 5,000 is believed to produce about 900 metric tons of cannabis a year, worth some 4.5 billion euros ($6.1 billion) – just under half of the small Balkan country's GDP.By late Wednesday, some 800 police had brought nearly half the village under control, gingerly advancing into gang-defended areas. So far, they have seized and burned 11.3 tons of marijuana packed in sacks and 70,000 plants and destroyed two marijuana laboratories. Police also seized considerable amounts of ammunition from the more than 30 houses searched. Albania, a small mountainous country on the Adriatic coast opposite Italy, has just over 3 million people.
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