Lebanon Businessnews News

Legalizing hashish to be
discussed in Parliament
Third largest exporter of cannabis
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Parliament is considering the legalization of planting cannabis for medical use. This follows a report by McKinsey to the government that highlights the positive economic benefits of shifting the country’s illicit cannabis agriculture and trade to a regulated market for medicinal use.

“Diversifying the agricultures locally is necessary. Cannabis, along with other medical plants and flowers should be adopted, because they are of a huge benefit to the economy,” said Raphael Debbane, Chairman of Agricultural Committee at the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture in Lebanon.

The government has made many attempts over the years to eradicate the cannabis crop in the Bekaa region.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported on source countries for cannabis resin during the period 2009-2014. It suggested that the world’s largest producer is Morocco, followed by Afghanistan, and to a lesser extent, Lebanon, India, and Pakistan. “Huge hectares would be allocated for hashish agriculture in the Bekaa and Hermel region,” if it is legalized, said Ramez Osseiran, Chairman of the Association of Farmers in the South. Production can reach up to 20,000 tons per year, he said.

Centre de Recherches & d'Etudes Agricoles Libanais (CREAL), which specializes in agricultural statistics, estimates that the value of production of prohibited crops – mainly cannabis – reached $40 million in 2012, $90 million in 2013, $38 million in 2014, and $13 million in 2015.

The local soil and climate are ideal for cannabis cultivation. Cannabis seeds are planted in April and harvested in late summer. Cannabis is relatively easy to cultivate at low cost. The local crops are of the highest quality, which is why they command high prices, said Osseiran.

Although the cannabis crop is expected to benefit the economy, the government should plan how it is legalized. “The prices of cannabis are high today, but they may drop when there is oversupply. For this reason, we should study the types that should be planted, the hectares, and amounts required,” Debbane said.

“It is a good idea that Régie Libanaise des Tabacs et Tombacs (Régie) takes care of this agriculture and its marketing, because it has succeeded in managing the tobacco sector,” said Debbane.

To make a positive impact, cannabis agriculture should be controlled and managed by a specific committee represented by the Ministries of Agriculture, Interior, Health, and Economy and Trade, Osseiran said.

The international community has shown its approval for adopting the cannabis agriculture because there is huge demand on it.

Cannabis can be exported to several countries including Germany, France, US, and Canada. “Canada will stop cultivating cannabis if it was able to import from Lebanon, because its agricultural cost is high, as they cultivate it in glass green houses,” said Osseiran.
Reported by Rania Ghanem
Date Posted: Jul 23, 2018
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