Prime Minister Zoran Zaev is recasting his old demand that marijuana use is legalized – an idea from which his family businesses stand to gain – as a measure that would help cafes and the hospitality industry in general make it through the recession.

The hospitality industry has a low share of GDP compared to the European countries. It could do much better. Let’s open a debate on the issue, let’s decriminalize and legalize marijuana. That will increase the industry, Zaev said, before hastily adding that he’s just “opening a discussion”.

Since grabbing power in 2017, Zaev’s family moved aggressively into the marijuana business, and a number of his relatives, friends and business partners have received licenses to open marijuana plantations. The plantations ostensibly produce marijuana that will be distilled into cannabis oil but the spread of the business has raised doubts whether that is what is actually happening.

An attempt to use a fast track legislative procedure to adopt laws needed for Macedonia’s EU accession to legalize recreational use of marijuana is part of the criticism in the latest European Commission progress report on Macedonia.