Lebanon has made history in response to economic disaster. Since last year the country has faced economic hardship that has slashed the value of the local currency. As a result, the government has legalized cannabis cultivation in an attempt to increase internal revenue. Lebanon becomes the first country in the Middle East to legalize farming for medical purposes.
Although some may believe this was a discreet attempt to control the underground market, lawmakers assert this decision was “driven by economic motives – nothing else.”
Controlling the Market
Lebanon has struggled financially for a while now. Since last year the country has seen a spike in unemployment and prices of goods. Uprisings for stability and assistance have become a normal activity throughout the country. Finally, COVID-19 has worsened the situation beyond imagination. Stay-at-home orders have driven the economy even further down. With everything going on, it’s hard to imagine the country can stay afloat for much longer.
“We have moral and social reservations, but today there is the need to help the economy by any means,” said Alain Aoun, a Senior Member of Parliament in the Free Patriotic Movement.
In an attempt to control the market, Lebanon has legalized the cultivation of cannabis. In other words, cannabis will be used to generate several different products to help cope with the economic downfall. These products include textiles, pharmaceuticals, and even CBD oil. The country hopes this will bring in an additional billion dollars to the state’s economy.
Using What’s in Front of Them
On paper, this sounds like an obvious solution for a country that is economically struggling. What’s interesting though is cannabis cultivation isn’t anything new to Lebanon. In fact, According to the United Nations, Lebanon is the third-largest producer of cannabis resin, otherwise known as hashish. Suddenly, a simple solution becomes a little more complicated.
There are several things to consider now. First, is how to control the underground market and use it to your advantage. Being the third-largest producer of hashish, only behind Morocco and Afghanistan, the country has influence within the underground market. Removing that aspect won’t be as easy as it sounds, especially if the government is taking it. In fact, last month Lebanon experienced its largest-ever drug bust with local authorities discovered about 25 tones of hashish en route to Africa.
Another element to consider is how the government can use their already existing facilities to their advantage. The country already has a handful of facilities capable of producing these goods, but as the country’s economy continues to decline, some might argue the need for more.
Thankfully for the residents of Lebanon, lawmakers have already considered these issues and included some insight. The new law will focus on existing cultivation centers and use them as a foundation for the cultivation efforts. Additionally, efforts will be made to minimize illegal activity within the country, including unlicensed distribution and consumption.
This is a ground-breaking law for the Middle East. For the first time ever, Lebanon will attempt to control the massive production of cannabis cultivation to save the country’s economy. This could potentially bring in millions of tax dollars back to the government during a time of desperation.
It’s going to take some time for authorities to eliminate the underground market, but eventually, Lebanon will see some revenue come their way. Ultimately, this proves lawmakers are willing to go to extreme measures to save the current local economy. Hopefully, in the near future, Lebanon can dig itself out of this economic struggle.