Lebanon is no ‘Laughing grass’ matter

Security forces destroying hashish crops.

In a country that is prone to civil wars, assassinations of political figures and political subterfuge, it is of no surprise to discover that Lebanon is fast becoming the Middle East’s main hashish exporter. In the Bekka Valley, which stretches 75miles long and nearly the length of Lebanon itself, the cannabis trade is booming. In the last year vast quantities of land in the valley has been used to cultivate the cannabis. Hashish was banned in 1926 under the French mandate, yet it is still grown by the local farmers for want of a better produce.

As the cultivation of such a plant is illegal, the government every year orders its security forces to uproot the crops, causing the farmers to lose profit. According to the farmers in the valley, they are more than willing to grow another crop, however the government has not offered them an alternative solution, and so they continue to grow hashish as it thrives in the valley’s environment and needs little in terms of care. The issues has caused the farmers to strike out at the security forces and on various occasions both sides have engaged in conflict with the other.

Another reason why hashish is still grown is due to the collapse of the state. With no central authority overseeing such a large territory and conflict, drug cartels have ‘taken over’ the cultivation of the crops. Crooked politicians have ensured that these cartels are kept running due to the money that the cannabis brings in.

According to a farmer, an acre of hashish can be cultivated for US$100 and sold for US$4000, where as a crop of potatoes the same size is cultivated for $400 and makes a profit of only $100. It is evident as to why the farmers continue with the cultivation of hashish.

Hezbollah also has an issue with the drug trade and they have tried to persuade the government to destroy the crops. A member of Hezbollah was interviewed and insisted that Hezbollah did not use money made from the drug trade as it is against Sharia Law, and the group only uses drugs as a tool for security purposes and bribes.

In this instance, the perpetrator is not clear, if it is the farmers, the security forces, or Hezbollah for their inability to stop the trade. Either way it is a dominant issue within domestic and international politics and the government needs to address this issue, or perhaps an independent organisation needs to intervene and prevent further grievances.