BEIRUT: Lebanon's parliament is expected to study plans to legalize the production of medical marijuana and its derivatives, Speaker Nabih Berri told Wednesday U.S ambassador Elizabeth Richard.
The initial recommendation was part of a 1,000-page report put together by consultancy firm McKinsey after it was hired to draw up an economic plan with the aim of kickstarting the country's faltering economy.
Lebanon's now illegal cannabis sector could fuel up a $1 billion industry, caretaker Economy and Trade Minister Raed Khoury told Bloomberg News last week, while boasting of its quality, which is "one of the best in the world."
But Lebanon-grown cannabis hasn't been well studied up to this point or thoroughly characterized, which is where the Lebanese American University enters the fold.
Last month, LAU introduced its initiative to establish the Medicinal Cannabis Research Center, which aims to "generate evidence-based knowledge on the potential medical value of Lebanon-grown cannabis."
The "distinctive climatic and growing conditions in Lebanon give Lebanon-grown cannabis special characteristics", it said, adding that one of its features is "its resistance to drought and high temperatures, environmental factors that greatly affect the cannabis’ chemical content, hence its pharmacological characteristics."
Most of the supply is generated from the Bekaa valley, with the trade managed by a plethora of cannabis-growing families who cultivate their crop openly in the surrounding fields. Despite clashes between farmers and law enforcement being well documented, Lebanon still ranks as one of the world's top five producers of cannabis resin, according to a 2016 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
The Mckinsey report, which took almost seven months to formulate, was submitted to President Michel Aoun on July 5, yet its details have been strictly safeguarded until a new Cabinet is formed.
Lebanon's economic woes have been accentuated in recent weeks, with remittances from expats continuing to drop, the real estate market stagnating, and Central Bank governor Riad Salameh scrambling to alleviate concerns.
The Central Bank's $43 billion dollars worth of foreign reserves, excluding gold, are touted by many as being enough to enable the Lebanese Lira to weather political instability and the current dip in economic growth.
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