The Lebanese parliament is preparing to vote to legalize cannabis for medical and industrial purposes, a decision that is part of “an effort to stimulate its crippled economy and curb the illicit production of the psychoactive plant.
The bill, which has been approved by parliamentary committees and is now moving towards a final vote, nevertheless only concerns cannabis with less than 1% THC.
The bill creates a regulatory authority responsible for issuing licenses for every activity surrounding the plant, from importing seeds and plants to grow, processing cannabis or exporting its derivatives.
Licenses will be granted to Lebanese pharmaceutical companies, industries with the capacity to process hemp fibers or extract oils and foreign companies licensed to work in the cannabis industry in their countries of origin.
Besides, licenses may also be distributed to specialized agricultural cooperatives established in Lebanon, to Lebanese citizens such as farmers or landowners and to laboratories and research centers qualified to work with controlled substances.
A missed opportunity
One of the stated objectives of the draft law is to reduce the pressure on the judicial and prison system in Lebanon, which is largely observed by the local cannabis trade. But rather than decriminalizing cannabis or reducing sentences, it calls for “increased criminal penalties for violations of the articles of this law”.
The bill also prohibited anyone with a criminal record from acquiring a license to grow or work cannabis in any way.
It would thus exclude tens of thousands of people who have served a sentence or been caught cultivating or using cannabis, particularly in the Bekaa region, where most cannabis is currently cultivated unless there is a general amnesty for past offenses.