Lebanon is the first Arab nation to legalize cannabis for medical and industrial purposes

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On April 21, Lebanon underwent a pivotal moment in cannabis history. It was on this day that the Arab nation legalized cannabis for medicinal and industrial purposes. The legislation was approved following a parliamentary vote; largely swayed by the prospect of bringing the middle eastern country a much-needed economic boost. 

Lebanon has been enduring economic turmoil for quite some time. Back in 2018, as the country was undergoing a financial crisis, New York-based firm Mckinsey and Co. recommended medical cannabis legislation in Lebanon. Two years since a meeting with the Lebanese government was organized by the American firm, legislation has been given the green light.

Since the country’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab has been tackling a string of protests and bank firebombings amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there could be no better time for the world’s third-most indebted country to start recovering its financial losses. 

Now that cannabis in Lebanon is legal for medicinal and industrial purposes, economists project annual revenue to the amount of $1 billion. These projections seem likely, considering the fact that the United Nations ranks Lebanon as one of the top three cannabis cultivators in the Middle East. 

Legalization of medical cannabis in Lebanon will stimulate production in new legal industries

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic erupting, the local currency was already collapsing in Lebanon. A dollar shortage has restricted imports and, consequently, put immense pressure on the economy; unemployment rates are in a critical state and the cost of living has increased dramatically. 

“We have moral and social reservations, but today there is the need to help the economy by any means,” expressed senior MP in the Free Patriotic Movement, Alain Aoun.

Cannabis to the rescue? It very well could be, according to experts in finance and politics. A brand new legal medical cannabis industry in Lebanon has the potential to spark immense economic growth for years to come; not only can the cannabis plant be cultivated for the creation of CBD (cannabidiol) oil and related products but also, reports indicate that medicinal and industrial cannabis legislation in Lebanon could stimulate the manufacturing of pharmaceutical goods and textile fibers for various industries.

Lebanese authorities have long struggled with the black market 

For Lebanon’s medical cannabis bill to be enacted into law, the president and prime minister of Lebanon must give the bill their signatures; something that is believed to happen imminently. One the bill is signed off, Lebanon’s new medical cannabis program will be overseen and regulated by the government. Regulatory oversight will include everything related to the cultivation, sale, distribution and manufacturing of cannabis for medical or industrial purposes. 

The Arab country of Lebanon is renowned for illegally producing cannabis in the nation’s Beqaa Valley — a fertile valley where cannabis cultivation proves to be its major source of income. Translated as “Bekaa”, this region produces the vast majority of Lebanon’s hashish and opium. However, illicit growers/producers in this area won’t be alllerd to export or import cannabis quite like Lebanon’s legit cannabis operators will be able to.

Although Lebanon’s legalization of medical and industrial cannabis is a surefire win for the struggling country, it’s important to note that recreational cannabis will remain illegal. Because of this, black market operators in the  Bekaa Valley are likely to continue engaging in altercations with terrorist-fighting cannabis cultivators; therefore Lebanon’s police forces may require extra ammo when continuing their efforts to eradicate/compete with the illicit market.