The growth of cannabis is gradually increasing in the fields in the Bekaa valley. This is mainly due to policies adopted by successive governments that neglected the agricultural sector, while the state has demonstrated a limited capacity to eradicate cannabis crops in the past, and mainly in the last two years. This has encouraged farmers, bearing losses and facing agriculture problems amid a lack of state assistance, protection, support and compensation, to opt for growing marijuana.
Walid Jumblatt has renewed calls to legalize the cultivation and sale of marijuana. The head of the Progressive Socialist Party wrote that the time has come to sanction pot and end the state's prosecution of its sellers. "It is time to allow for the cultivation of marijuana, and to drop the right to issue arrest warrants against people who work in this field," the prominent Druze leader said.
Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb called for the legalization of cannabis farming in Lebanon to allow the state to benefit from the revenue of its export. “We are conducting studies on [how to] organize this type of agriculture so that it becomes monitored by the state, and thus the state can buy the harvest and export it to the countries that need it,” Chehayeb said. He added that the state should end its war on cannabis farmers and find workable alternatives.
The minister of interior Charbel promised to find solutions for cannabis farmers, including finding alternative crops. Talk about alternative crops has been around since the Taif Accord, which ended the civil war in Lebanon more than two decades ago. “The government had allocated 35 billion Lebanese pounds annually to aid the farmers, as part of a five-year project for alternative crops to hashish. Unfortunately, none of this has been put into practice.” Charbel finds the continued talk about alternative crops irritating, saying that it seems this will remain forever a pipe dream and spoke about legalizing the cultivation of hashish.
According to Jalal Mahfouz, head of the Planning and Development Center in Hermel (Lebanon), any move to legalize the illegal industry, which is believed to be worth millions of dollars, would backfire by reducing prices and demand. He argued that hashish was currently expensive because it was illegal, and that if that changed the plant’s value would plummet. He also cast doubt on the idea that the government would be able to enforce any such law – even if supportive of the industry – given its near total absence from the remote area.