Legalize 'hashish,' says Lebanese MP Walid Jumblatt

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An undated photo shows the hashish harvest in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. Al-Akhbar / Alia Haju

Published Sunday, December 14, 2014

Lebanon's controversial and outspoken MP Walid Jumblatt called in a "joint statement" on Twitter Saturday for the cultivation of cannabis to be legalized.

"It's time to allow hashish to be grown and to overturn arrest warrants against people sought for doing so," the veteran politician wrote in Arabic on his Twitter account.

Jumblatt, long famed for his blunt manner and role as Lebanon's kingmaker, became an instant must-follow after opening a Twitter account.

Back in May, Jumblatt, the head of Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) and has often been dubbed a "chameleon" or "weathervane" for his shifting political alliances, told Lebanon’s Al-Jadeed TV channel that he supported the cultivation of cannabis for medical use and also to help struggling farmers in northern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley.

The prohibition of cannabis cultivation in the nineties came at the expense of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged segments of society.

The marijuana industry generated hundreds of millions of dollars during the country's 1975-1990 civil war.

"It’s all this global influence on Lebanon that is causing this trashing of the hashish! The Americans, the Zionists, and Syria want to keep Lebanon a poor country," one of the farmers in Bekaa Valley told Al-Akhbar.

It is worth noting that the country that forced Lebanon to ban the cultivation of cannabis – the United States – has legalized the use of hashish in several states.

Despite Lebanese law punishing drug trafficking with prison terms, villagers in the Bekaa Valley in the east have little respect for the law and clans there grow marijuana openly and process it.

"The Lebanese blonde hashish is a local plant, one of the best in the world. We have the best conditions to plant it; it doesn't need chemicals or fertilizers and we barely water them. If they stop trashing our harvest every year I can promise you that we can pay the government's debt in no time,” the farmer added.

In 2009 an acre of hashish that cost about $100 to produce could be easily sold for $4000, whereas an acre of potato that cost about $400 to produce made only $100 of profit.

Prices since then have surely flourished, especially with the supposed scarcity of cannabis in the market.

Today, the growth of cannabis is gradually increasing in the fields of agricultural lands 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.

According to farmers’ estimates, areas planted with cannabis jumped from “70,000 dunams to 150,000” in the fields of the Baalbek-Hermel region. Meanwhile, locals acknowledge that the amount of marijuana grown this year is “multiple times” the amount grown in 2013.

The growth of marijuana cultivation has led the demand for cannabis seeds to soar with prices going up to 2,500 Lebanese liras per kilo ($1.65), another local farmer said.

Cannabis growers in Lebanon said the conflict in Syria has turned the state's attention away from the problem at home and boosted traffic with the border now less secure.

Farmers say demand has risen by more than 50 percent since 2012, the year after war erupted in Syria, with most of Lebanon's hashish going there.

The product’s destination “is not restricted to Lebanon,” the farmer stated, explaining that “it is impossible to count on the Lebanese market to sell large quantities.” He revealed that the crops were “being transferred to Syria in batches, and some to Jordan, Egypt and Gulf countries.”

“This operation takes places through border crossing points in a village in the northern Bekaa, whose residents have been notoriously smuggling goods to Syria for ages and even personally transfer them to the Jordanian borders” he added.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP)

Comments

famed for his BLUNT manner.

"joint statement"

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