Lebanon ready to legalise medicinal marijuana, parliament speaker says
Lebanon could soon legalise medicinal marijuana, the country's parliament speaker has said, as authorities seek ways to jumpstart the country's struggling economy.
Speaker Nabih Berri said the parliament will review legislation about a proposal to legalise the growth and production of marijuana.
Lebanon has the third highest debt rate in the world, standing at 150 percent of GDP.
It has charged consulting firm McKinsey & Company with setting out a vision to revitalise growth, and one of the suggestions submitted to President Michel Aoun included a recommendation to legalise and regularise the production and sale of marijuana.
Berri told the US ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard that Lebanon could follow the firm's advice.
"Lebanon's parliament is preparing to study and adopt the necessary laws to legalise the growth and consumption of hash for medicinal purposes, like a number of European countries and some US states," said Berri.
Consuming, growing and selling marijuana are all illegal in Lebanon, but production in the eastern Bekaa Valley region is widespread, making it a multi-million-dollar industry.
Trade and Economy Minister Raed Khoury said this trade could be regulated by the government.
|Lebanon's parliament is preparing to study and adopt the necessary laws to legalise the growth and consumption of hash for medicinal purposes.
He told reporters this month that McKinsey's proposal included "establishing areas to grow cannabis for medical purposes, within a comprehensive legal, regulatory framework".
The production of cannabis sprouted during Lebanon's 1975-1990 conflict, but even in peacetime authorities have failed to curb the trade.
In 2012, rockets were fired at army bulldozers trying to raze cannabis produce.
The trade is mostly controlled by powerful families in the country's east, many of whom are well-connected enough to evade arrest warrants or jail time.
Activists have called for the decriminalisation of marijuana use.
Lebanon's veteran politician Walid Jumblatt is one of the country's best known advocates of legalising the herb.
Cannabis is typically planted in the springtime in Lebanon and harvested in September, then sun-dried for three days, chilled and pressed.
The economy has been in a downward spiral for years, with political divisions paralysing the government and corruption draining resources.
War in Syria has seen Lebanon struggle to deal with hundreds of thousands of refugees, while tourism and investment have been hit hard by the conflict.