On Tuesday the Lebanese parliament adopted a bill to legalize medicinal cannabis cultivation in a country suffering from its worst economic crisis for decades, aggravated by the coronavirus.
During the meeting in Beirut, demonstrators in cars protested against MPs and politicians in general, accused of corruption and incompetence. They also traveled to other cities, including Tripoli (north) and Saida (south). Gathered outside the Chamber, in an auditorium that can hold up to 1,000 people in Beirut to allow for social distancing, MEPs adopted the draft law on the legalization of cannabis.
This measure should bring in revenue for the state, which has been over-indebted and in default since March, for the first time in its history. Lebanon has long banned the production and consumption of cannabis, but the industry, which for a long time remained an underground activity, has become a multi-million dollar industry. Legalization is proposed by the international advisory company McKinsey & Cie to the Lebanese authorities.
Since last year, Lebanon has been going through its worst economic crisis in 30 years, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and draconian containment measures. MEPs in the three-day session also approved a $120 million World Bank loan to help the health sector, of which $40 million was reallocated to the fight against COVID-19.
The parliamentarians also passed a law to fight corruption in the public sector, which was one of the triggers of the unprecedented popular uprising in Lebanon in October 2019.
The government is about to announce an economic rescue plan that should lead to a start on debt restructuring and possible external aid. The plan mentions financing needs of more than 80 billion dollars, including 10 to 15 billion dollars in foreign aid over five years.