The Lebanese American University will be the first university in Lebanon to study medical marijuana. This week, the university president announced the foundation of the Medicinal Cannabis Research Center. Joseph G. Jabbra put forth big plans for medical marijuana research and de-stigmatization, suggesting it could bolster the national economy. Here’s a look at the university’s plans, and why Lebanese marijuana may be some of the best in the world.
The Unique Benefits of Lebanese Hash
According to the BBC, Lebanon’s marijuana industry is worth $4 billion. This makes it the fifth-largest cannabis marketplace in the world. Not only is it big business, Lebanon is internationally recognized for producing the world’s best hash. It has a climate perfectly suited for growing, and Lebanese hashmakers use tried-and-true harvesting and refining methods.
According to the Lebanese American University, the region’s marijuana is resistant to severe heat and drought. It is thought that cannabis produces more THC when subjected to environmental stressors.
A University Study of Medical Marijuana
The Medicinal Cannabis Research Center marks Lebanon’s first steps towards international university-funded research. Scientists have barely scratched the surface when it comes to Lebanon’s unique marijuana, and the biochemical effects of its hot, dry climate on the herb.
Joseph G. Jabbra, president of the Lebanese American University, didn’t shy away from controversy during his announcement on May 30th. Instead, he said it’s inherent to the university’s history as the first women’s college in the nation. Though marijuana is still illegal in Lebanon, the government can issue a permit to study unlawful plants.
But Jabbra wants to do more than study it. He wants research to lead to manufacturing marijuana pharmaceuticals. For this to happen, Lebanon would have to change its stance on marijuana. “We are awaiting the creation of a legal framework within which we can proceed, with the full support of the Ministry of Public Health,” explained Jabbra.
For now, the center will study the chemical makeup of cannabis and delve into its potential medical applications. Specifically, the university will study cannabinoids’ effects on memory, cancer, and inflammation.
Marijuana Research and Pharmaceuticals Could Be An Economic Boon
The World Bank estimates that unemployment in Lebanon hovers around 34 percent, especially affecting college graduates. Consequently, the nation, which has one of the highest percentages of college graduates in the Middle East, suffers from a ‘brain drain’. Forty percent of college-educated men and 30 percent of women leave the country to find work.
The Lebanese American University, of the top schools in the country, is betting that marijuana could solve the emigration issue. Dr. Bahij Arbid from the Ministry of Public Health hopes that the center will turn Lebanon into an “exporter of knowledge.”
The Medicinal Cannabis Research Center will have inherent ties to the university’s arts and sciences college, pharmaceutical school and medical program. They anticipate working with the European Commission, the World Health Organization, and other international organizations interested in the flourishing field of cannabis.
Universities in Canada, the U.S., Europe, and Israel are studying cannabis—with great success. With some of the region’s best universities and access to an underemployed but educated population, Lebanon could also become the next hot spot for lucrative cannabis research and pharmaceutical manufacturing.