News / Middle East

    Syrian War Aids Lucrative Cannabis Farming in Lebanon

    Syrian War Aids Lucrative Cannabis Farming In Lebanoni
    X
    May 27, 2014 4:25 AM
    With a civil war raging in neighboring Syria, Lebanese security forces are busy guarding the country's borders. In the past three years, there have not been enough troops for regular raids on illegal crop farmers. As a result, cannabis farms have flourished in the fertile Bekaa Valley in east Lebanon, with the cannabis plant squeezing out less lucrative wheat, barley and vegetable crops. Zlatica Hoke has this report.
    Zlatica Hoke
    With a civil war raging in neighboring Syria, Lebanese security forces are busy guarding the country's borders. In the past three years, there have not been enough troops for regular raids on illegal crop farmers. As a result, cannabis farms have flourished in the fertile Bekaa Valley in east Lebanon, with the cannabis plant squeezing out less lucrative wheat, barley and vegetable crops.
     
    Spiky-leafed plants are the source of cannabis resin, also know as hashish, a substance that is much in demand by recreational drug makers worldwide. It is a hardy crop that can withstand drought without the need for irrigation. Ali Nasri Shamas, a Lebanese farmer, said he makes much more money growing cannabis than growing any other crop, and he is prepared to fight for his fields.
     
    "We want to live as everyone else does. If they want a confrontation, that's no problem for us. It will be harvest season soon. If they want to come for us, they are welcome. If they want to legalize it, we'll thank them and tell them they are good people," said Shamas.
     
    Cannabis is an illegal crop in Lebanon and the government has conducted annual raids on farmers, destroying their fields and imposing penalties.
     
    "We know that in the period from the 1990s until 2012, cannabis eradication took place on an annual basis and all the material, logistics, human and technical resources would be ready," said Ghassan Shamseddin, the head of Lebanon's Drug Enforcement Unit.
     
    This has not been the case since the beginning of Syria's war, more than three years ago.
     
    "In 2012, due to the regional and security circumstances surrounding Lebanon, some obstacles happened during the eradication. The eradication operation was halted because of the situation that year on the Lebanese borders and the instability in Syria," said Shamseddin.
     
    Bekaa Valley farmers have always resisted government efforts to eradicate the marijuana plant. Now, they openly discuss plans to expand its production.
     
    "Every year we are increasing the areas we are planting. We are doing what we have said we would do. Three years ago, we told them [the authorities] we will plant double. We did, and we will confront them. The next year, we promised them we would plant five times that amount. We did and we confronted them. And we will increase it every year. Either they provide an alternative, they legalize it or it will be a confrontation between us and them," said Shamas.
     
    Shamas said the government would benefit from making cannabis legal, like tobacco, because it could collect tax from cannabis growers. Economist Marwan Iskander agrees.
     
    "I consider that Lebanon needs this farming and needs to revive the Bekaa and Akkar regions. And according to my estimates, legalizing the cannabis crop and its exportation abroad to the United States or some of the European countries where it is allowed, we would add $2 billion to the Lebanese economy and $400 million to the state budget," said Iskander.
     
    Last year, when violence from Syria's civil war spilled across the border, with bombs and gunfights in Lebanon's coastal cities and rockets striking towns in the Bekaa Valley, authorities quietly shelved the battle they had waged with cannabis farmers for the past two decades.

    You May Like

    Saudi Arabia’s New Female Politicians in the Other Room 

    Many in Saudi Arabia say elected representatives should share unsegregated spaces; according to a recent survey, more than half the Saudi population, both men and women, prefer to work in a segregated place

    Russia Not ‘Apologetic’ for Syria Airstrikes

    With Moscow criticized for targeting armed opponents of President Assad, Russia’s UN envoy says his country ‘acting in a very transparent manner’

    Pakistan Warns of Islamic State's Growing Reach

    Aftab Sultan, General Director General of Intelligence Bureau (IB), briefed Senate Committee in closed hearing, saying that IS-linked groups have been expanding in Pakistan

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.