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Legalizing Cannabis in Lebanon: A Trap for the Poor of the Valley

Bunasser Al-Taffar – Lebanese writer and rapper
April 23, 2020
We can ask ourselves: Could there be a convergence between the state’s interests and the farmer’s interests in this legislation under these exceptional circumstances that we are experiencing now? Unfortunately, the answer given the current circumstances is: absolutely not.

Let the matter be clear, and without preamble: Any improvement in the life of the poor, no matter how insignificant it is, is but a nail in the coffin of the ruling wealthy gang. Therefore, the Lebanese state, with all its institutions, cannot take any decision that is in the interest of the poor, or that improves their conditions for free, ever. Anything else is simply a performance with malicious intentions and aims. The master that buys a slave from the slave market with a whip in his hand, will deny him eating at the same table. He will never grant him freedom!

Only in this context can we analyze the new law passed by the Lebanese parliament at its extraordinary session in the “UNESCO Palace” on regulating the cultivation of cannabis for medical use, after months spent by the state testing the waters and preparing for it. (It should be noted that the session was held in UNESCO to maintain the safe social distancing rules between the deputies in light of their fear of Coronavirus, while the poor were crowded like sheep on the same day without any safe distancing measures in front of school gates awaiting their turn to fill in a form to receive financial assistance that lacks any value from the government).

Isn’t this enough to understand that we are facing a new trap set by the state? If we fall into it, we would be nothing but a group of mindless fools.

This is going on in their luxurious palace, while in the miserable valley, the scene is completely different. In the semi-isolated villages of northern Bekaa, the same painful scenario repeats every year and every season. Armed raids and ambushes are organized by the Lebanese security forces to kill, seize and burn the crops of farmers who can do nothing but to defend their existence with their lives. They didn’t choose this path out of luxury, but rather it is a bitter cup they were forced to drink due to an even more bitter one. They were thrown into a dark corner by the policies of this oppressive state for decades, which literally provided them with only the military guns directed at them; no other simile or metaphor can be utilized here to describe that. An entire governorate has been left for the de facto parties to trade their hunger and blood. It is a totally indifferent official authority when it is in the context of development, health and cultural services; its existence is only limited to tax collection and barracks.

Why does the state reject legislation demands?

The first obstacle against legislation was Hezbollah’s dominance over the region and their demolition of any hope of improving the conditions of its people, so that they would not wriggle out from under their power. The accessibility to multiple opportunities for the capable youth in these villages would make it difficult to recruit them to fight in their ranks, and to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the leader and his allies. This could explain the tragedy that the region is experiencing on the educational level, in the absence of a National University and the proliferation of private educational institutions that constantly contribute to brainwashing and conditioning. The impressive outcomes expected after legalizing cannabis cultivation in favor of the region’s youth and its future will make it difficult for the party to lure them into marrying and building a home, or even a modest monthly salary that may afford them family expenses. The party’s absolute rejection of this demand is part of their efforts to keep people in darkness and prevent them from seeing the light outside their divine cloak.

Perhaps the security threat to some farmers will recede, as their work will become legal under the law. However, they will most likely wish to return to the days of danger and guns when they make the move from the hands of heavily armed soldiers to the hands of businessmen fortified with money, power, and official covers that allow them to pass the most corrupt deals of all.

The second keyword to answer this question of rejection, is the “service sector”. In the absence of any minimal support from the agricultural and industrial sector in Lebanon, the service sector is always praised for the huge profits it brings to the state treasury and its thieves. It has even become an annual routine to witness local agricultural crops get spoiled in the streets in front of crying farmers while the state and its foolishly-smiling ministers are celebrating the opening of a huge commercial center here, or a new bank branch there.

The third and most interesting reason for the absolute rejection of legislation is that the ban on growing cannabis in Lebanon widely opens two doors for corruption: The first is the state’s ability to control and raise prices on the black market through its affiliated dealers, and the second is the illegal import of hard manufactured drugs, which are the most expensive and profitable in the absence of their competitor, regarded by many as the “drugs of the poor.” Then, the destruction of the cannabis crop will be a masterstroke, as it will provide a great service to the state and its mafia including all the links in the chain as dealers, exporters, suppliers, and traffickers. This explains the constant enthusiasm of the state media to tarnish the reputation of the Baalbek-Hermel region and to stigmatize its people by criminality and brutality, to pave the way for the state to carry out its mission properly. Thus, when the state kills one of it’s wanted men while he was driving with his family, similar to what happens in Baalbek and Hermel, the foolish public will praise their efforts, and the house they seize forcibly in the middle of Baalbek will be considered a potent symbol of the state’s authority.

This prohibition would be reasonable if there were any logical alternative for farmers that would ensure them a decent living. We could then say that cannabis cultivation is an individual choice, and the person choosing to do it should bear its responsibilities and face its consequences. However, the state holds cannabis farmers accountable and criminalizes them, while, at the same time, deprives them of any support, assistance, or any “legitimate” ways to sell their local products. Moreover, the state capitalizes on their miseries indecently and steals the aid provided to them by the alleged Global Agriculture & Food Security Program (GAFSP); this is what happened in the early 1990s, when the state stole billions and sent seeds with almost no productive value to farmers, such as damask rose, sunflower and sugar beet. The international community was pleased with the government then, as the global market was able to get rid of the most sought-after seed in the world: the Cannabis of Baalbek.

Why is the state so keen to approve this legislation now?

The answer comes from one of the enthusiastic MPs, who hurried and did not give us the chance to try to find the reasons ourselves, saying, “The decision comes to secure additional imports for the state and to create employment opportunities for the Lebanese youth.” Let’s overlook the part about job opportunities, as it’s nonsense, as we know, and take a deeper look at the crux of the matter: Additional imports for the state. The failed state itself, which is undergoing the worst financial crisis in its history and has pushed more than two-thirds of its people to the verge of starving to death and humiliation at the doors of banks, now comes with a quick genius solution: Legalizing growing cannabis for medical purposes!

For decades, this country never cared about the deprivation we have endured in the Baalbek-Hermel Governorate when people were and are still dying slowly without help. This state left us at the mercy of fascist parties, clan-based authorities, and greedy, filthy-rich traders, where we navigate trying to survive and save ourselves. It entrusted the mission of representing us to snob MPs who have nothing to do except hover like crows in funerals and calamities, to offer condolences to grieving mothers who lost their children. They deprived us for years, chanting slogans that the deprivation in Baalbek-Hermel is just a small price we have to pay to liberate the south from the Israeli occupation.

This state doesn’t think about us when we break down the rest of our household furniture and burn it for heat due to the steady increase in fuel prices, as it cuts off electricity to our homes. It doesn’t care about us when our patients die on the streets, because there is only one hospital available for every seven villages. It holds us accountable when we eat each other, trying to yank our rights through horrible vengeful acts in the absence of law and the corruption of the judiciary.

The Lebanese state doesn’t remember its poor unfortunate souls when they live through all these agonies, but it will definitely remember them when it comes to additional financial imports. Only then will it accelerate the enactment of such legislation without offering a single scientific economic feasibility study that proves the effectiveness and usefulness of the plan in numbers and details for the state and its people.

It is a bright future that awaits the people of Baalbek-Hermel, which is similar to the glorious future that the people of Beirut lived through when the state handed the project of the planning and redeveloping of Beirut Central District to “Solidere”. The MPs have eaten sour grapes, but farmers’ mouths pucker at the taste.

Will this law bring any real benefit to farmers?

If we all agree that the state has never made any effort for the benefit of farmers (or the poor, small depositors, or patients who are not covered by health insurance…), and never will, without exhausting them, we must ask ourselves: Could there be a convergence between the state’s interests and the farmer’s interests in this legislation, especially in light of these exceptional conditions that we are experiencing? Unfortunately, the current conditions hold one answer: this can never happen. What the tycoons hide away in wealth is far beyond what the farmer sees on his land. This confuses the farmer about this vital decision that would turn his life upside down, all while he has no say in the matter!

The impressive outcomes expected after legalizing cannabis cultivation in favor of the region’s youth and its future will make it difficult for the party to lure them into marrying and building a home, or even a modest monthly salary that may afford them family expenses.

Farmers have always worked for a few monopolistic big traders. They risk their lives to secure a dignified life for their families. However, overnight, they will have to work for one monopolist who has proven over the years his greed and failure to manage any productive investment in any sector, particularly agriculture. Actually, we have previous examples of this from the experience of Lebanon’s monopolistic tobacco regulatory authority, the “REGIE” (due to tobacco farmers in Lebanon suffering from discretionary practices used in distributing agricultural licenses and permits, as well as the chaos in setting prices and dividing shares …).

Perhaps the security threat to some farmers will recede, as their work will become legal under the law. However, they will most likely wish to return to the days of danger and guns when they make the move from the hands of heavily armed soldiers to the hands of businessmen fortified with money, power, and official covers that allow them to pass the most corrupt deals of all.

It is not a matter of pessimism or a prior rejection of experience. It is only confirmation that we and our farmers in Baalbek Hermel are citizens with rights and duties; this means it is unacceptable to treat us as if we were lab rats in the laboratory of the state’s additional financial resources. Especially as we notice the absence of scientific studies that prove that the type of cannabis cultivated in the valleys of the northern Bekaa will be more suitable for medical use than personal consumption, as most previous studies and research confirm the opposite.

After confirming this last point, we will face two more complex problems: The first problem is that the farmer will only produce the raw material for the Cannabis used for medicinal purposes, which is the cheapest ingredient in the production chain; So who will compensate the farmer for his losses? Here the second problem will appear: The area of land cultivated with Cannabis will exponentially produce more than the amount expected to be required for medical use. What will the state do in this regard? Most likely, the state will limit the minimum cultivated areas and restrict agricultural licenses to people loyal to it, while depriving the largest percentage of farmers of their only source of livelihood… this just means increasing their crisis to the maximum extent.

Some people may be surprised now, wondering how this could be our position today after many years of demanding all the ways to legislate cannabis cultivation in Baalbek-Hermel. Our response to them is that our problem is not in the legislation itself, but in the failed government that passed this legislation. Suffice it to say that the one who passed the law was Nabih Berry, Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament for thirty years, the same man who liked to repeat the saying, “It is insane to try the same thing over and over and expect different results.” Isn’t this enough to understand that we are facing a new trap set by the state? If we fall into it, we would be nothing but a group of mindless fools.

الأكثر قراءة

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