The fertile Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon has long been notorious as one of the world’s major narcotics-growing regions, producing some of the finest quality cannabis, mostly processed into hashish. Today, the country is the third biggest producer in the world after Morocco and Afghanistan, according to the U.N.
The Bekaa became notorious for the drug trade during the 1975-1990 civil war, producing some $500 million a year in opium and cannabis. After the war, authorities launched crackdowns on the fields and encouraged alternative crops like potatoes, tomatoes and apples.
Cannabis planting bloomed once more after Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011 and Lebanese authorities shifted attention to other security concerns.
The Lebanese government will soon study proposals to legalize cannabis cultivation to export for medicinal purposes. The plan is part of a package of reforms proposed by McKinsey & Company – a global consultancy firm hired to come up with a five-year plan to rescue the ailing economy.
The decision to recruit outside help came in the wake of increasingly dire predictions about the country’s finances. Lebanon is the third most indebted country in the world, with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 153%. The civil war in neighboring Syria made a bad situation even worse: economic growth has dropped from 9% before the conflict to about 2% today.
With the global demand soaring for medicinal marijuana, the Lebanese government have a profitable cash crop but must deal with Hezbollah - a extremely complicated task- to realize this potentially lucrative business