There is growing support in Lebanon's cannabis-producing eastern region (the Bekaa Valley, for centuries a major hashish production zone) for a proposal from Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt for the government to legalize and purchase the crop from the area's struggling farmers, establishing a program of controlled distribution for medicinal purposes. Advocates of the proposal say the yearly eradication of the cannabis crop by the Central Drug Control Office has led to corruption, and is breeding resentment.
Moufleh Allaw, a local official in the town of Hermel, warned that farmers and influential families in the area will not allow their crops to be eradicated, noting recent attacks on police and firms that rent bulldozers to the eradication teams. But the government insists that the eradication program will continue, boasting that some 6,000 dunums of cannabis have been eradicated over the past month, out of a total of 30,000 dunums of plantations in the area. Security sources said it would take a month and a half destroy all the fields.
Lebanon's Daily Star visited Zoueiteniye village—nearly reduced to a "ghost town" as most of the some 500 residents have migrated to Beirut since the government launched its eradication program in the '90s. One of the remaining residents, who asked to be identified by his initials MF, has five dunums (5,000 square meters) of cannabis fields. He said cannabis cultivation provides his only source of income for his family, while admitting that growing it violates tenets of his Muslim faith. But he said that cannabis earns $5,000 per month for his family, while legal crops bring in only $1,000. He said the latter option would mean in his children would have to drop out of school. (Daily Star, Aug. 2)