At the end of last April, the bill for the legalisation of cannabis cultivation for medicinal purposes was approved in the Lebanese Parliament. The approval was met with objection of the Shiite Hezbollah militia party as well as several independent parliamentarians who were also opposed to legalisation. Despite this, the approval went ahead.
Up until now, the sale, consumption and cultivation of cannabis were prohibited throughout Lebanese territory; however, in the Bekaa Valley (a region located about 30 kilometres east of Beirut, between the Lebanese and Anti-Lebanon mountain ranges), the illegal production of it has increased considerably in recent times. A strange coincidence is apparent in that this is a region in which Hezbollah has a strong presence.
Amidst great security measures and in the middle of the coronavirus crisis, this project has been approved along with other types of measures after the American consulting firm McKinsey and Company (which specialises in solving problems related to strategic administration) stated that the legalisation of cannabis cultivation for medicinal purposes could mean an injection of close to a billion dollars for the State. Lebanon, which is experiencing a serious economic storm exacerbated by the health crisis and which has one of the highest public debts in the world, sees an important opportunity to generate income that is much-needed at the moment with this course of action.
By adopting this measure, Lebanon becomes the first country in the Middle East in which medicinal and industrial cannabis are legal. Furthermore, despite the illegality, Lebanon was already considered one of the top three marijuana-producing nations in the Middle East according to the United Nations. With the legalisation of it, the economic benefits will have a direct impact on restructuring public funds.
From now on, the legislation will allow cultivation for pharmaceuticals and consumer products made from CBD oil, and production for new legal industries such as producing textile fibres.
Alain Aoun, MP for the Free Patriotic Movement party, stated that the need to help the country's economy has been prioritised over the moral and social reservations that still exist in Lebanese society today. Both the country's political and financial class have placed their trust in this project, hoping that the medical and industrial cannabis industry will help overcome the economic difficulties the nation is experiencing.