Lebanon legalises cannabis cultivation – becoming the first-ever Arab country to do so and exclusively for medical use. A move that many believe could generate lucrative exports and foreign currency as the country begins to struggle with their financial crisis.
Although growing the plant was previously illegal, cannabis has long been farmed openly in the impoverished Beqaa Valley. According to the United Nations, the country is the world’s third-largest supplier of cannabis resin, or hashish, after Morocco and Afghanistan.
The new laws that are being drawn up and put into place will now regulate existing cultivation efforts and help stem unlawful production of the plant to convert it into an economic driver. In the same breath, recreational production of cannabis will remain illegal.
Lebanon legalises cannabis cultivation with the intention of building a multimillion-dollar industry that could generate products ranging from textiles to pharmaceuticals, and even such items as cannabidiol (CBD) oil. Lebanon’s The Daily Star reported with no clear indications of recreational use being approved as it’s seen as non-essential to the already weak economy.
Lawmakers who supported the bill defended their decision, saying it was “driven by economic motives – nothing else”. We have moral and social reservations, but today there is the need to help the economy by any means,” said Alain Aoun, a senior MP in the Free Patriotic Movement.
The idea of legalising cannabis cultivation to produce high value-added medicinal products for export was explored in a report by McKinsey that was commissioned by the Lebanese government in 2018.
The consultancy firm reportedly estimated that the industry could generate as much as $1bn annually. For a country that already has a close relationship with cannabis, opening up a legal market could see perceptions and stigmas change, all while giving the economy the boost it needs.