Lebanon Prepares to Approve Cannabis Draft Law But Who Actually Stands to Profit?

Published February 27th, 2020 - 12:03 GMT
Lebanon Prepares to Approve Cannabis Draft Law But Who Actually Stands to Profit?
Although illegal, Lebanon is the third largest exporter of cannabis worldwide. (Shutterstock)

Despite prohibiting its production and use in Lebanon since 1926, a joint parliamentary committee has finally endorsed a draft law that aims to legalize medical cannabis, a decision that has raised many questions over its timing and purpose, in the country where illegal exports of cannabis have been ranked as the third-largest worldwide.

Cannabis production in Lebanon has been a controversial issue for decades, especially as crops are planted across vast areas in Bekaa and Baalbek, violating laws that have banned it for a long time.

The production of cannabis was at its highest during the Lebanese civil war between 1975 and1990, due to the absence of security in the war-torn country.

Cannabis production also peaked in 2012, when authorities turned their attention to border security challenges amid the outbreak of the Syrian civil war next door. During that time exports reached about 2000 tonnes a year.

Decriminalizing the production of cannabis could ideally help the troubled Lebanese economy, especially as the country suffers from an extremely dire financial crisis following mass protests that started in October 2019.

Lebanese MP Fadi Alame told Annahar newspaper that "the actualization of this law will have a very good economic impact, which Lebanon is currently in dire need of."

Prominent activist Gino Raidy has accused politicians who voted in favor of the draft law of trying to make a profit off cannabis to serve their own interest and called on the Lebanese people to demand that their parliamentary representatives stop the law from being passed.

According to Raidy, the draft law has been carefully designed to help certain politicians make money off the trade that they haven't allowed farmers to benefit from in decades.

In an article he published on Medium, Raidy provided details on the draft law, saying that it allows exporting cannabis for medical use only but doesn't allow the Lebanese public to use it for the same purpose. He added that the Ministry of Public Health hasn't been consulted, even though the law states medical use as the only justification to sell cannabis.

Raidy also added that farmers whose lives depend on illegal cannabis production will not be able to grow it according to the new law, as it only allows farmers with "clean records" to be involved in the industry once it's legalized.

According to local newspapers citing Deputy Parliament Speaker Elie Ferzli, the draft law will be transferred to the Lebanese National Assembly within days for approval.

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