Farms in Lebanon are considered to be the “breadbasket of the Middle East” because of its rich soil and advantageous climate.
However, because of global warming, many Lebanese farmlands and other parts of the region, especially the ones in the Bekaa Valley between Syria and Mount Lebanon, have been adversely affected by droughts and wells drying up. According to a CNN report, farmers have found it difficult to grow onions, potatoes, and produce that are native to the region.
As a result, many farmers have turned to cannabis. Cannabis requires little water and is a drought-resistant crop. It thrives in the high altitudes of the Bekaa plains, where it requires no pesticides, too.
Many farmers are hoping cannabis would be legalized in the country, so they could go on producing hashish. These farmers believe that if the Lebanese government does not go ahead with legalizing the substance, there is no hope for them.
Hashish is the resin made from the cannabis plant, and Bekaa has a long history of producing it. In fact, Bekaa’s reputation of marijuana production extends beyond the borders of Lebanon, with the strain “Lebanon Gold” being among the choices in Amsterdam coffee shop menus.
Moreover, the main psychoactive compound found in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), was first identified in a sample of Lebanese hashish that was smuggled in 1964. This eventually led to the research on the medicinal benefits of cannabis.
The Lebanese parliament is preparing to legalize the use and cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes. This after the international consulting group McKinsey recommended legalization as part of a broader development plan.
CNN cited Economy Minister Raed Khoury as saying that legalization is expected to pave the way to a multimillion-dollar industry. He said that cannabis can provide Lebanon around $400 million to $800 million of revenue and could therefore help fix some of their economic troubles.
Officials hope that legalizing cannabis will boost exports and help jumpstart the country’s declining economy. Lebanon has the third-highest debt to gross domestic product ratio in the world, and it is suffering from ever-growing unemployment and decaying infrastructure.
Agriculture experts in the country also believe that cannabis legalization could revive their struggling agricultural sector after being hit by climate change.
Weed Sciences Professor Mustapha Haidar of the American University of Beirut told CNN that the people of Bekaa plain are experts at growing cannabis. He added that these people are not good in marketing, but are good at cultivating cannabis, so if the grovernment regulates the drug and gives medical cannabis licenses, that would be great.
Haidar, who is a native of the region and also a director at an agricultural research center in Bekaa, argued that the cultivation of hashish in the Bekaa plains has very few alternatives. According to him, the profit margins of the plant are very high — at least thrice the profit margins of onions and potatoes.
The report noted that, as of now, law enforcement officers are turning a blind eye to hashish farms and there aren’t much crackdowns on the farmers. But because arrests are still always a possibility, farmers are forced to remain discreet and to stay out of public eye.