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Lebanon Becomes the First Arab Country to Legalize Cannabis Cultivation in Bid to Beat Economic Crisis

Earlier this week, Lebanon became the first Middle Eastern country to legalize cannabis farming, as it hopes to boost its debt-ridden economy and curb illegal production of the drug.

This move to legalize the underground cannabis industry could boost the economy by $1 billion a year.

Earlier this week, Lebanon became the first Middle Eastern country to legalize cannabis farming, as it hopes to boost its debt-ridden economy and curb illegal production of the drug. The Lebanese parliament voted to approve cultivation of cannabis for medicinal and industrial uses, in an attempt to create a market that could be worth $1 billion (Dhs/SAR3.67 billion) a year. Support for cannabis reform was “really driven by economic motives”, according to Alain Aoun, a senior MP and nephew of Lebanon’s President, Michel Aoun. There is a massive potential profit to be made from exporting the crop internationally. MP Aoun said that the move would bring in government revenue and develop the agricultural sector. “We have moral and social reservations but today there is the need to help the economy by any means,” he said. 

The idea of ​​legalizing cannabis cultivation in Lebanon, with a view to produce high value-added medical products for export, was discussed in a report commissioned by the Lebanese government in 2018. For now, recreational use remains illegal under the new law, but cannabis can now be grown for industrial use, including for textiles (hemp) and for production of pharmaceuticals. 

What Can We Learn from This? 

A similar move could do wonders for the Bahamian economy. The combined impact of Hurricane Dorian and the global COVID-19 pandemic has been catastrophic to the Bahamian economy; in a time when so much remains uncertain, cannabis reform in The Bahamas could be a true economic lifeline. And while many Caribbean nations have been loosening laws on cannabis for the past several years, The Bahamas could still emerge to be a frontrunner in the Caribbean cannabis industry. The time is now. 

By Merilyn McGonigal

Merilyn McGonigal (alas, no relation to the professor) is a writer and editor based in South Florida. She has crafted content for small businesses, large non-profits, tech startups, and everything in between. Writer by day and reader by night, she loathes to talk about herself in the third person but can be persuaded to do so from time to time. So it goes. Find her on Instagram here @MerilynMcg

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