By Rim ElChami
Although Lebanon prohibited the production of cannabis in 1926, the industry reached its peak during the country’s 1975-1990 civil war, where an estimated 2,000 tonnes a year was leaving by illegal ports on the coast.
After the civil war ended, Lebanon prohibited the cultivation of cannabis in 1992 under the pressure from the US. However, Cannabis’ farmers in Bekaa Valley and Baalbek areas (dominated by Hezbollah) have witnessed a second boom since the Syrian war started. They claim that trade has grown by 50% since 2012, as Lebanese authorities have turned their attention to border security.
In January 2019, an official study showed that the Lebanese plants currently used to illicitly produce cannabis are not suitable for medicinal and industrial use,which led the Lebanese MPs to mull the creation of a new market with an alternative crop rather than legalizing an existing market.
In addition, the MPs are taking other obstacles into consideration; high cost of establishing the infrastructure, legal framework and oversight agencies necessary to regulate a market fit to produce medicine that is up to Western standards are some of them.
So keeping all that in mind, and adding to it the all the political struggles Lebanon is facing, will Beirut become the Amsterdam of the Middle East anytime soon?
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