On Tuesday April 21,2020 the Lebanese parliament embarked on a controversial legislative session the highlight of which was a law that was passed legalizing the medical use of Marijuana. Congratulations, Lebanon is now a cannabis country making it the first chill Arab nation. Sadly the satisfaction ends there, as many people just took the law at face value and never bothered to dig deeper. What was also missed was a bevy of other crucial laws that were supposed to be passed, never did.
The Top 1%
The benefit of this law is very much up for debate. The perception is we are now a marijuana friendly nation, but that’s not the case. It’s a selective law, and selective towards the political elite, which stand to gain the most, as they are in prime position to be the first to reap what they sow, pun intended. Much to the dismay of the horde of Lebanese stoners, which flooded Twitter with celebratory pictures of the Lebanese flag with a cannabis leaf replacing the cedar (real original), cannabis isn’t legal in Lebanon. Atleast not for the recreational marijuana user. In fact this law does nothing at all to clear the air about the marijuana stigma in Lebanon.
What it does succeed in doing is create a parallel “legal” market for the political elite to do business with big pharmaceutical companies. Essentially what we have now is a select few individuals with two hands in each one of the cookie jars, the illegal marijuana market and now the legal one. You need not look further than who aggressively advocated for this law to be passed to know who stands to gain the most from it.
This law comes at a time where commercializing marijuana can be quick and immediately profitable. And with the cash strapped corrupt politicians looking for every last dollar to take before they ride off into retirement, cannabis seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. Especially now with the petrol pool looking a bit dry. The infrastructure already exists. Marijuana farmers and farms have operated since DECADES ago, and made a lot of money. At it’s peak, Lebanese hashish represented 80% of the global supply. And Lebanon’s political class benefited greatly from its illegality, raking in dollars and locking up local competition as they pleased.
The Real Deal
If Lebanon wanted to pass an actual Cannabis law, it would’ve legalized the SALE of marijuana and it’s export to European countries, which are ALREADY getting our product through black market and illegal channels. According to an article published by The National, Lebanese farmers “can make between US$10 to $12,000 per hectare per year”. Currently, the cannabis trade injects about $500 million a year into the local economy through traders and farmers while most of the profits – around $2 billion – go to “international traffickers“. Obviously and purposefully this law does nothing to address any of that. It keeps the business of marijuana illegal and in the dark. The legislation itself doesn’t even rely on local cannabis crops. Instead it requires that the cannabis used be less than 1% THC potency, whereas Lebanon’s crops are around 18% potency. We would have to bring in specialized bitch seeds that are under 1% THC potent and neglect our kickass 18%. It’d be like getting the chance to race around the Daytona speedway but instead of a Ferrari you’re driving a fucking Nissan Sunny.
In the end Lebanon missed a golden opportunity and instead settled for a half hearted effort. Best case scenario this law gets used and abused. At which point the hypocrisy of having marijuana legal in this manner forces the government to loosen up parameters and approach it in a holistic way.
“It’d be like getting the chance to race around the Daytona speedway but instead of a Ferrari you’re driving a fucking Nissan Sunny.”
Tip of the Iceberg
The cannabis draft law was just the start of what was a barrage of fuck up after fuck up. Essentially the parliament of 128 MP’s took all the demands of the October 17 movement and wiped their ass with them. Not one of the October 17 requests were passed. All were either voted down, or voted non-essential to be discussed at a later time. These laws included:
- Shortening parliaments mandate (voted down)
- Banning posters of political leaders in public (voted down)
- Lifting ministerial immunity (sent for re-evaluation)
- Lifting bank secrecy (sent for re-evaluation)
Those were just some that didn’t see the light of day. Another crucial law that failed to pass was the allocation of 1,200 billion LBP to the social safety net. These funds would have been used to help poverty stricken families, small business, and farmers. The law didn’t even get voted on because most of the MPs had left the hall, which doesn’t make any sense seeing as to how the country is in SHUTDOWN and there is absolutely no where else to go. The lack of quorum led to the now infamous exchange between PM Hassan Diab and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, where Diab insisted that an evening session be assembled so that MPs could be gathered again and the law voted on. To which Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri responded “nobody imposes anything on me or on this parliament”.
It Is What It Is
That’s just how the cookie crumbles in Lebanon. Reality sets quick in this country. You forget the sliminess of the swamp because some days the weather’s nice and the sun shines bright. But inevitably you are reminded of reality by the displays of buffoonery like the one that transpired during the week, the theatrical circus that was fittingly held in a theater. Even if you were able to avoid the 2-day long shit-show, you still get hit in the face by a quote from MPs like Ziad Aswad saying “in this country there are no rules”. Only in Lebanon does hope continue to get battered and beaten until it curdles into the fetal position acknowledging defeat; surrendering the will to get up. And even then the beating continues because in Lebanon there are no rules, there is no common courtesy. Just the inmates running the asylum, both in our overcrowded prisons and our overcrowded parliament.