By Maria Kuiper
By Maria Kuiper
Rabat – Lebanon’s suffering economy and an abundance of illegal cannabis farmers has led the Lebanese government to look into its legalization.
McKinsey & Company, an international consultant firm, has proposed the plan for Lebanon to legalize cannabis to save their weak economy.
Since the start of the Syrian war, the UN Refugee Agency has estimated around 1 million documented Syrian refugees living in Lebanon. Riad Salameh, the governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, said in 2015 that Syrian refugees directly cost $1 billion a year and indirectly cost $3.5 billion a year.
The Guardian reported that economic growth in Lebanon dropped from 9 percent to 2 percent since the Syrian war began.
One of the reasons people in Lebanon are so poor is because of arrest warrants relating to the drug trade. According to the Guardian, about 42,000 arrest warrants for marijuana offences are outstanding in the Baalbek-Hermel district. People with arrest warrants cannot find a job.
Cannabis production in Lebanon is ruled by clans in the country’s eastern Bekaa valley. They have established wealth and power due to years of the drug trade. They are heavily armed and will question authorities.
Lebanon’s cannabis industry peaked during the Lebanese civil war from 1975 to 1990, when approximately 2,000 tonnes of cannabis were illegally transported per year.
Now, cannabis brings in an estimated $175 million to $200 million to the country by exporting to the Gulf, Europe, Africa, and North America. Lebanon is the third largest exporter of cannabis in the world, according to the UN Office for Drugs and Crime. Morocco remains the main source for cannabis resin in the world.
Moroccan law bans the sale and consumption of cannabis, but farmers continue to grow the plant, and tourists continue to visit Morocco in hopes of trying hashish. According to the South China Morning Post, cannabis provided a living for around 90,000 households in Morocco in 2013.
Moroccan tourism and hashish have gone hand-in-hand since the 1960s during the hippie movement. Chefchaouen, the famous “Blue Pearl” city, has been popularized as Morocco’s main center of cannabis production.
The World Drug Report reports that cannabis is the “most widely cultivated, produced, trafficked, and consumed drug worldwide,” although it is still illegal in most countries. If Lebanon legalizes cannabis for medical purposes, there would be more access and treatments for people who experience chronic pain, muscle spasms, seizures, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, and even multiple sclerosis and cancer.