In this file photo taken in August 2015, masked police officers burn cannabis plants in Kurvelesh commune, 200 kilometers south of the Albanian capital, Tirana. Authorities in Albania say they destroyed about 2.5 million marijuana plants last year, four times more than the year before. (Hektor Pustina, Associated Press file)

Cultivation crackdown: Albania deploys 3,100 police officers to prevent illegal cannabis grows

Last year authorities destroyed about 2.5 million marijuana plants, four times more than the year before.

TIRANA, Albania — Albanian police say they have launched a nationwide operation to try to prevent the planting of cannabis.

A statement said 3,100 officers have spread out around the country checking greenhouses, old army depots and tunnels or abandoned houses where cannabis seeds and small plants may have been hidden.

Last year authorities destroyed about 2.5 million marijuana plants, four times more than the year before. Many metric tons of cannabis were seized at border crossing points or from boats bound for neighboring Italy or Greece.

Italian anti-Mafia official Franco Roberti and other senior officials were in Tirana Thursday to discuss with their Albanian colleagues why cannabis planting has increased.

Cannabis traffic to Italy increased threefold last year, he said.