Lebanon parliament will vote on law to legalize medical and industrial cannabis cultivation

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Not so long ago, on February 27, a law that could potentially legalize medical and industrial cannabis cultivation in Lebanon was approved by the country’s parliamentary committee. Lawmakers are optimistic that legalization could bolster Lebanon’s damaged economy; the country is currently battling a debt crisis, fiscal crisis and currency crisis. The bill has now been sent to Parliament for adoption.

Based on the details of Lebanon’s draft cannabis cultivation law, black market activity could be dampened if the plant is legally grown for medical and industrial purposes. However, cannabis that contains in excess of one percent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – “ a psychoactive cannabinoid – “ would not be included in the draft law. With that being said, the illicit market for cannabis in Lebanon could still thrive off of high-THC products; THC is a dominant cannabis compound that may induce a ‘high’ in consumers.

“The Bekaa Valley is considered one of the best lands for cultivating cannabis, which is classified among the finest species in the world, and it does not contain more than one percent of narcotic substance,” said Agriculture Minister Abbas Mortada, who estimates that as much as 250 kilograms of cannabis flower could be produced for every 1,000 meters.

“If we sell a kilo for fifty dollars, we would support the Lebanese farmers and secure a great return for the state; but if we go towards establishing factories and pharmaceutical plants, then the profits will double, in addition to the possibility that this law would push foreign companies to invest in Lebanon with the aim of manufacturing drugs.”

Cannabis in Lebanon: Draft law would create a Commission

The recently-announced draft law to legalize the medical and industrial cultivation of cannabis in Lebanon would establish a Commission responsible for providing regulatory oversight. This regulatory authority would constitute numerous members, whose role would involve distributing licenses among successful cultivation applicants.

In addition to this, Lebanon’s cannabis Commission would be required to monitor the license-awarding process for a range of additional privileges, such as sapling/seed importation, crop planting/harvesting and the development/inauguration of cannabis grow facilities. Cannabis derivative exportation and extract manufacturing would also be dealt with by the Commission.

The subject of legalizing medical and industrial cannabis in Lebanon has “been in the works for about eight months,” according to member of the subcommittee, Cannabis Committee for Medicinal Leaves, Dr. Fadi Alame. “We will hopefully start the essential discussions in the coming few weeks, since the actualization of this law will have a very good economic impact, which Lebanon is currently in dire need of.”

Who would be allowed to participate in Lebanon’s cannabis market?

Based on the bill, licenses can be bestowed upon industries and pharmaceutical companies that are currently based in the Middle Eastern country; these companies would need to already be in possession of a permit that enables them to develop oils, extracts and industrial fibers in order to be accepted for a cannabis business license in Lebanon. In regards to businesses that are headquartered outside of Lebanon, licenses must first be obtained to prove that they’re legally able to partake in the country’s nascent industry without leaving their country of origin.

According to the details of Lebanon’s cannabis bill, additional licenses may be distributed among specialized agricultural businesses that were established inside the country. It’s also possible that landowners, farmers, research centers and laboratories may be invited to participate in Lebanon’s cannabis cultivation market; so long as they have the necessary qualifications to work with controlled substances, like cannabis.

Cannabis in Lebanon: The country is a major hash producer

Lebanon is no stranger to the cannabis plant. For more than 100 years, cultivators have been operating illegally to produce THC-laden plants that can be turned into hashish — a thick, sticky substance that is made from the plant’s trichomes. Often referred to as “hash” or “chocolate” due to its brown appearance, the extract is not hard to track down in the multi-ethnic country.

Aside from being snapped up by the locals, Lebanese hash is often exported illegally to markets across Asia and the rest of the globe. In fact, Lebanon is said to produce six percent of the world’s hash, despite cannabis still being an illegal substance in the country. If we rewind back in time to 1975-1990, cannabis in Lebanon was even more popular than it is today. During this time, amid the civil war outbreak, 80 percent of the world’s hashish supply came from Lebanese producers; suggesting that quality could be a beneficial factor, should the country venture into legal “green” territory.

If the latest bill is enacted into law, the country’s former economy minister, Raed Khoury, feels confident that legal cannabis in Lebanon could generate upwards of $1 billion in revenue on an annual basis; he claims that Lebanese hashish is “one of the best in the world”.