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Lebanon Becomes First Arab Country to Legalize Cannabis Cultivation

Cannabis, lebanon

Photo: Robert Nelson on Unsplash

The Lebanese parliament has announced the legislation of cannabis cultivation for medicinal and industrial use. Declared on Tuesday, the operation has been implemented to help boost the economy during its potentially paralyzing financial crisis and help curb the illegal production of the drug.

Speaking to Reuters, Alain Aoun, a senior MP in the Free Patriotic Movement, which was founded by President Michel Aoun, said that the decision was “really driven by economic motives, nothing else.” He added, “We have moral and social reservations but today there is the need to help the economy by any means.”

This operation of legalizing cannabis has been in talks since 2018. In a report by American consulting firm McKinsey commissioned by Lebanon, it was estimated that the industry could be worth US $1 billion (AED/SAR3.67 billion) a year.

Cannabis has long been farmed illegally in the country’s fertile Bekaa Valley. According to the UN, Lebanon is the third-largest supplier of cannabis resin after Morocco and Afghanistan.

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Under the law, the recreational use of cannabis is still prohibited, however, the industry can now generate products from textiles to pharmaceuticals.

In the textile industry, cannabis is most commonly known as hemp. When the Cannabis sativa plant is processed into fabric, it is one of the strongest and most durable natural textile fibers. A sustainable and high-yielding crop, it requires little water and no pesticides.

Hemp can also be used in a variety of commercial and industrial products. These include everything from rope to paper, insulation to biofuel, and even food.

In the medicinal world, studies into the use of cannabis or marijuana are still in the early stages, not having been rigorously tested due to production and governmental restrictions. However, preliminary evidence has suggested that it can help treat chronic pain, muscle spasms, nausea – especially when caused by chemotherapy – and severe forms of epilepsy.

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