The Lebanese Parliament voted to legalize growing marijuana for medical and industrial use amid the coronavirus pandemic and economic collapse in Lebanon.
The law makes Lebanon the first Arab country to legalize marijuana growing, offers economic incentives for the debt-ridden state. It also made Lebanon the only proprietor for trading cannabis, which has been illegally cultivated for decades in Bekaa.
Hezbollah representatives opposed the decision, but the Lebanese Parliament still approved the bill during its session on Tuesday.
Hezbollah’s allies in the government, including representatives of President Michel Aoun and parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri, representatives, voted in favor of the decision.
“The new law would not legalize marijuana for recreational use. Instead, it would allow for the plant to be grown for export for medicinal and industrial purposes. Under the new legislation, Lebanon would also aim to foster a new legal industry producing cannabis pharmaceutical items, including wellness products and CBD oil. Industrial products, such as fibers for textiles, could also be produced from the plant,” The Newsweek reported.
According to global firm McKinsey’s study in 2018, legalizing marijuana in the country would revitalize the Lebanese economy.
“Hezbollah is a primary beneficiary of cannabis trafficking,” Hilal Khashan, a professor of political studies and public administration at the American University of Beirut, said.
“The only way for Hezbollah to accept the ratification of the law is to be directly involved in its implementation—i.e., get its share from it,” he added.
Lebanon legalizes marijuana for medical use
Lebanon was included in the world’s top five producers of cannabis, UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported in 2018.
Firas Maksad, a policy analyst and professor at George Washington University, said for the move to be successful, a lot would rely on implementation.
“If regulated and taxed properly, this is a net positive for Lebanon,” Maksad told The National.
But the decision was a reversal of policy.
“It is important to note that Lebanon spent many millions of foreign assistance dollars in the nineties to fight cannabis farming in the Bekaa,” he added.
Maksad also said Hezbollah’s public opposition to the bill might be only posturing.
“Hezbollah took a principled position against it given the party’s claimed Islamic credentials, but practically it signaled to its allies that they can vote for the legislation,” he said.