Lebanon is on the cusp of entering the marijuana marketplace. 

The country’s parliament is nearing a vote on whether to legalize cannabis for both medicinal and industrial purposes, a move that Al Jazeera reports is part of an “effort to boost its crippled economy and curb illicit production of the psychoactive plant.”

The measure, which has the endorsement of Lebanese parliamentary committees, would only apply to pot that has “less than one percent of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabidinol, or THC,” according to Al Jazeera.

“Lebanon has cultivated the plant for at least 100 years and produces large amounts of hashish, a sticky, sweet-smelling derivative of the cannabis plant that looks like chocolate. Though illegal to produce, sell or use, it is widely available locally and is also illegally exported,” Al Jazeera reported. “Lebanese hashish can be found in European capitals, and formerly made up about 80 percent of the world’s supply during the country’s civil war years (1975-90) when cultivation was at its peak.”

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. “Our soil is among the best in the world for this, and the cost of production is low compared to other states.”

Cannabis In The Middle East

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.”

Lebanese 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.

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