July 18, 2018 / 5:30 PM / in 3 months

Lebanon to consider legalizing cannabis growing: official

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon’s parliament is considering legalizing the cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said on Wednesday, in an attempt to boost the struggling economy.

Cannabis plants grow in a field in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon October 4, 2015. REUTERS/Alia Haju

“The Lebanese Parliament is preparing to study and adopt the legislation necessary to legislate the cultivation of cannabis and its manufacture for medical uses in the manner of many European countries and some U.S. states,” Berri’s office said, reporting comments made in a meeting with the U.S. ambassador to Beirut.

Although growing the plant is illegal in Lebanon, powerful landowners nevertheless have for decades openly grown fields of cannabis in the fertile Bekaa Valley, untouched by law enforcement and its attempts to crack down.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime ranked Lebanon in a 2018 report as the world’s third main source of cannabis resin seized by national authorities after Morocco and Afghanistan.

Lebanon has been suffering weak growth since 2011, hit by regional turmoil. The IMF has estimated growth rates of 1-1.5 percent in 2017 and 2018, saying traditional drivers of the economy - construction and real estate - remain subdued.

The IMF has also called for “an immediate and substantial” fiscal adjustment to improve the sustainability of public debt, which stood at more than 150 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) at the end of 2017.

To help transform the economy, Lebanon this year engaged consultancy firm McKinsey to come up with a plan for productive sectors.

One of the options explored by the report was for Lebanon to legalize cannabis cultivation for export for medical use, a government source told Reuters. The report has not yet been made public and is awaiting government approval.

Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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