The Lebanese parliament on Tuesday voted to legalize medicinal and industrial cannabis cultivation. The legislation was recommended by economic advisers previously. However, after the coronavirus pandemic dealt a devastating blow to the Mediterranean nation’s struggling economy, lawmakers pushed the law through.
The new law would not legalize marijuana for recreational use. Instead, it would allow for the plant to be grown for export for medicinal and industrial purposes. The cultivation of cannabis by farmers would be regulated within the country, according to The Daily Star, a Lebanese English-language newspaper.
Although the plant has long been widely and openly cultivated in Lebanon, particularly in the country’s eastern Bekaa Valley, growing cannabis was strictly illegal, according to an article in Newsweek.
Under the new legislation, Lebanon would also aim to foster a new legal industry producing cannabis pharmaceutical items, including wellness products and CBD oil. Industrial products, such as fibers for textiles, could also be produced from the plant.
Kareem Chehayeb, an independent Lebanese journalist and researcher, noted on Twitter that Lebanese political party Hezbollah opposed the new law. “Though their key allies supported the draft law, #Hezbollah were not the only party to oppose this,” Chehayeb tweeted.
Hilal Khashan, a professor of political studies and public administration at the American University of Beirut, told Newsweek that legalizing cannabis would not be nearly enough to address Lebanon’s economic concerns. He also voiced skepticism that the government would be able to successfully implement the law, given Hezbollah’s opposition.
“Hezbollah is a primary beneficiary of cannabis trafficking,” Khashan said. “The only way for Hezbollah to accept the ratification of the law is to be directly involved in its implementation—i.e., get its share from it.”
Lebanon has been publicly discussing the possibility of legalizing cannabis for medicinal and industrial purposes for nearly two years. Back in July 2018, Raed Khoury, Lebanon’s former caretaker minister for economy and trade, bragged that the quality of Lebanese marijuana “is one of the best in the world” during an interview with Bloomberg News.