Lebanon moves to legalise medical marijuana, but Hezbollah says 'no, haram'

Lebanon moves to legalise medical marijuana, but Hezbollah says 'no, haram'
Lebanese parliament's joint committee approved legalising cannabis cultivation for medical purposes.
2 min read
28 February, 2020
Lebanon is considering legalising cannabis cultivation for export [Twitter/@lebanesegigolo]
Hezbollah has opposed plans to legalise the cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes, saying the change would bring no economic benefits for Lebanon.

"The legal proposal does not set out its economic viability," the Iran-backed armed Shia movement said over a proposal to legalise the cultivation of cannabis - known locally as hashish.

Hezbollah representatives voiced their objection to the law as it was being discussed by the parliament's joint committee, Arabi21 reported. The group follows Shia Islam teachings, which prohibit the use of the drug.

Hezbollah has been accused of cultivation hashish in the Bekaa region, but the party has denied the accusations.

After getting approval from the joint committee, the marijuana legalisation bill will be referred to the house of representatives for a vote.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Elie Ferzli said that both national and international expertise had been consulted by the joint committee before the decision was made.

"The proposal was ratified by the majority of deputies," Ferzli said.

The deputy speaker also pointed to the McKinsey report, which puts forward the legalisation of cannabis cultivation and export as a boost to the Lebanese economy.

The American consulting firm McKinsey was hired by Lebanon last year to help formulate a plan to reform various sectors, including agriculture.

Its report, which Lebanon received in July, suggested the country legalise cannabis and export it for "medicinal use" as one of many ways it can overhaul its troubled economy.

Considered the third most indebted country in the world based on debt-to-GDP ratio, Lebanon has been seeking to reduce its reliance on revenues from remittances and tourism, both of which have come under stress due to geopolitical uncertainties in the tumultuous region. 

Lebanon's minister for the economy at the time, Raed Khoury, claimed that cannabis could become a one-billion-dollar industry in the country.

Hashish has long been cultivated illegally in Lebanon, particularly in the Bekaa Valley, historically a stronghold for Hezbollah and other outlaw groups. 

The quasi-lawless area - one of the poorest in Lebanon - is notorious for its production of narcotics, which expanded massively over recent decades, turning into a multi-million-dollar industry.

Lebanon is the world's fourth-largest producer of cannabis, according to a 2017 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), after Morocco, Mexico, and Paraguay.

But experts say the politically sensitive step of legalising cannabis - even for bespoke exports - is easier said than done.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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