Cannabis clampdown.

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A major polite crackdown on the production and sale of cannabis in Italian-speaking Ticino has resulted in the closure of almost all the canton's hemp shops.

Earlier this year, a campaign was launched to stamp out a flourishing trade in the canton.

Shops selling cannabis proliferated in Ticino after the first store opened in 1996. By the end of 2002 there were 75 outlets.

During the same period, the cultivation of cannabis increased--particularly in the Magadino area.

There was also a parallel increase in the indoor cultivation of marijuana, with artificial light stimulating the growth of high-strength "grass".

In the spring of 2003, however, the Ticino authorities finally cracked down on the illegal trade.

Dozens of cannabis plantations were sealed off, plants and funds confiscated and dealers...

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