Analysis: Lebanon Legalizes Medical Marijuana
Just when we thought 2020 couldn’t get any more unpredictable, Lebanon is blazing a trail in the Middle East. In a historic law, the Lebanese parliament legalized growing and cultivating marijuana for medical and industrial purposes. The move has been a long time coming, but was hurried along because of the huge hit Lebanon’s economy has taken in the wake of the global Coronavirus pandemic.
While recreational use is still illegal, Lebanon’s new law opens the door to pharmaceutical products that include CBD oils, wellness products, along with more broad industrial items like fibers for textiles and other hemp products.
The law is coming at a key time for Lebanon. The effects of the Coronavirus pandemic have slowed the Lebanese economy to a standstill. To counter that, the Cannabis industry is projected to inject over a billion dollars into the Lebanese economy. It’s a smart move that could have come much sooner, given that Lebanon ranks in the top five of countries that produce cannabis, according to the UN Department of Drugs and Crime (UNDOC). The plant grows freely in the country’s Beqaa Valley, which is noted for its rich farming soil.
There has, of course, been some blow back. As an Arab nation, there has been cultural and political resistance. Hezbollah, the Shiite Islamist group that control large portions of the Beqaa Valleny, previously tried to have the bill killed in parliament despite the findings of a joint committee and remain opposed to the bill today.
Hopes are high for the cannabis industry in Lebanon. What remains to be seen is the impact this will have on how cannabis will be perceived in the rest of the region, and if, when the smoke clears, Lebanon is charting the course for the future of the Arab world in the cannabis industry.