Lebanese minister mulls legalizing cannabis farms for medical exports

Lebanese Caretaker Economy and Trade Minister Raed Khoury says there is a plan to legalize cannabis farms for medical exports.

The Lebanese minister Khoury told Bloomberg in an interview that there is a plan devised by New York-based global consulting firm McKinsey & Company to diversify the country’s fledgling economy.

Reaping “quick wins” from reconstruction efforts to build both conflict-ridden Iraq and Syria is one part of the plan. However, legalizing Lebanon’s illicit cannabis farms for medicinal exports is in the works too.

Not only that, but Khoury also praised Lebanese marijuana for its quality.

“The quality we have is one of the best in the world.”
Lebanese cannabis farms
File image of Raed Khoury

The minister added that marijuana has the potential to bring up to billion dollars in revenue especially as neighboring Israeli is en route to fully legalize medical marijuana exports as well.

Lebanon’s cannabis farms are mainly located in the Bekaa Valley, an eastern territory bordering Syria. The area is largely under the influence of the Iran-backed Shiite Muslim Hezbollah movement.

Not the first official

Khoury is not the first official to suggest legalizing medical marijuana exports.

In a 2014 tweet by Walid Joumblatt, head of Lebanon’s Druze and the current leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, said marijuana should be legalized so that the people of the Bekaa can earn a decent income.

However, the Lebanese government has long tried to combat the cannabis growers in Bekaa.

‘Just like Europe’

While Hezbollah has long denied any links to marijuana sales, independent farmers in the region are not only armed but openly talk about their trade.

In March 2017, hashish farm operator Ali Nasri Shamas openly discussed his business with BBC News.

“Just like Europe and the U.S. export terrorism to us, we sell them drugs,” Shamas told BBC as he displayed large supplies of arms and hashish.

Economy ‘on brink of collapse’

Lebanese Foreign Minister Jubran Bassil said recently the economic situation in Lebanon “is on brink of collapse” due to the huge influx of Syrian refugees, which burdened the tiny country’s economy.

The UN said Lebanon is hosting around a million Syrian refugees, but the Lebanese authorities said their numbers exceeded 1.5 million.

While Syrian refugees have already begun returning to their country over the past few months, economic repercussions are still felt.

Jumblat said on Monday, however, that Syrian refugees are not “the main reason behind Lebanon’s budget deficit.”

Following Jumblat’s remarks on reasons that inflated Lebanon’s deficit, Lebanese MP George Atallah, of the Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc, replied lashing out at Jumblat and blaming him for “squandering public funds” when the Ministry of Displaced was led by PSP ministers, the National News Agency reported on Tuesday.

Lebanon is ranked as the world’s fourth-largest cannabis cultivator right after Morocco, Mexico, and Nigeria, according to a 2017 UN report.