A police officer chops down cannabis plants in the Kurvelesh commune in Albania on Aug. 25, 2015. Albanian police found and destroyed some 16,000 cannabis plants and arrested a suspect. (Hektor Pustina, Associated Press)

Fields of green: 500,000 pot plants seized in Albania so far in 2015

TIRANA, Albania — Albanian authorities say they have confiscated about half a million cannabis plants this year, arresting 240 suspected growers and drug traffickers.

Interior Ministry spokesman Ardi Bita said Friday that fighting drug production is a “top priority” for police.

Some 7 billion euros ($7.9 billion) worth of marijuana has been seized and destroyed so far, Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri said.

This week, 100 police destroyed some 16,000 plants in Kurvelesh, south of Tirana.

Albania was long a major marijuana producer in Europe. A crackdown started last year, when police stormed the southern village of Lazarat with armored personnel carriers — despite coming under automatic weapon and rocket fire by drug growers.

Prime Minister Edi Rama has set the fight against drugs as a main priority for his government, elected in 2013.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com