Lebanon Becomes the First Arab Nation to Legalize Medical Marijuana

On Tuesday, Lebanon’s parliament approved a national bill to legalize medical weed and hemp after two years of debating reform. To become law, Lebanon’s president and prime minister must sign off on the bill — and both are expected to do so soon.

What will Lebanon’s new weed program look like? The state will regulate cannabis cultivation, sales, manufacturing, and distribution. Cannabis can only be grown, processed, and sold for medical or industrial purposes. And Lebanon’s legit pot operators can export or import weed, too. 

However, recreational pot will not be legal, so non-medical buds and hash remain the purview of illicit operators in Bekaa Valley. In other words, terrorist groups and terrorist-fighting weed farmers alike will continue to battle over black-market territory with more guns, ammo, explosives, and military equipment than Lebanon’s counterdrug police forces. 

Although weed activists (mostly) applauded the legislators’ vote, the parliament did not pass the measure to undo the injustices of Lebanon’s drug war. In fact, the utter lack of social justice provisions formed activists’ main complaint against the bill: Activists wanted recreational weed decriminalized, and demanded that pot convicts receive early releases from prison, as well, Newsweek reported. Neither of those requests were met, since the parliament legalized medical weed and hemp solely to create new, reliable sources of much needed revenue to keep the nation’s economy afloat. 

Before the coronavirus pandemic rocked the planet, Lebanon’s economy was already sailing across dire straits. Lebanon imports far more goods than it exports. A high national debt — caused by years of corruption, bloated spending, bureaucratic mismanagement, and fallout from the Syrian civil war waging next door — exceeds Lebanon’s GDP by roughly $30 billion. Adults younger than 35-years-old reached an unemployment rate of 37 percent last year, Reuters reported.

The economic woes and a frustrated populace eventually reached a head. Last October, over a million Lebanese protesters took to the streets in response to the faltering economy. The protests got so heated that the prime minister resigned, meaning Lebanon had to appoint an entirely new government, as well. Then, in March, the government defaulted on its debts for the first time in the nation’s history. In other words, the country said it couldn’t pay back what it owed, such as a $1 billion loan from the EU, raising concerns that the entire country would soon go bankrupt. 

The effects of the new medical weed program won’t be seen immediately, but given the financial successes of similar programs in the US, Lebanon may now be on the road toward fixing some of its economic woes. 

Lastly, only one major political party opposed Lebanon’s medical weed bill. That party is Hezbollah, a militant organization that likely funds many of its violent campaigns by controlling large portions of Lebanon’s illegal weed trade. Hezbollah has been designated a terrorist group by the US and at least 10 other countries and regional organizations. 

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