Members of the Lebanese parliament this week passed a resolution legalizing the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal and industrial purposes alike, a move that has been years in the making.
Newsweek reports that under the new law, which passed parliament on Tuesday, “farmers would be regulated within the country,” though it “would not legalize marijuana for recreational use.”
“Instead, it would allow for the plant to be grown for export for medicinal and industrial purposes,” according to 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.”
The proposal was brought before Lebanon’s parliament last month as a bid to help lift the country’s tattered economy that has been damaged even further by the coronavirus pandemic. The law that was drafted and put before parliament would not address that longstanding market, but would instead establish an entirely new one.
“We have a competitive and a comparative advantage in the cannabis business,” parliament member Yassine Jaber told Al Jazeera at the time. “Our soil is among the best in the world for this, and the cost of production is low compared to other states.”
Lebanon has a long history of cultivating cannabis, a practice that dates back at least a century in the country. The country’s officials have long expressed a desire for the country to play a similar role. In an interview with Bloomberg in 2018, Lebanese Caretaker Economy and Trade Minister Raed Khoury said that legalizing cannabis could revitalize the country’s sluggish economy, indicating that marijuana could generate a billion dollars in revenue. “The quality we have is one of the best in the world,” Khoury said at the time.
The Middle East could emerge as an unlikely, but significant player in the burgeoning worldwide marijuana industry, thanks in large part to the region’s hospitable climate. Israel has a long history with cannabis cultivation, having legalized medical marijuana back in the 1990s. The country is angling to become a major cannabis exporter; the Los Angeles Times reported last year that Israel has “ dedicated thousands of acres and millions of dollars to cultivating the plant under controlled conditions” and “nearly 100 start-ups producing cannabis-based medicines and other products.”