Weed Wacking: Cannabis Cultivation in Lebanon
As regional conflicts blaze, marijuana cultivation is taking off in Lebanon.
January 27, 2015As regional conflicts blaze, Lebanese and Israeli drug markets are feeling the heat: over the past two years, hashish prices have fallen 50 percent in Lebanon, while in Israel, prices have doubled.
Preoccupied by the neighboring Syrian conflict, the Lebanese army has been diverted from its annual cannabis eradication campaigns, giving cannabis farmers more freedom to cultivate their crops than at any time in 20 years. Much of the resultant production goes to the local market, pushing down prices and profits for farmers. The crisis in Syria has closed many of Lebanon’s border crossings, but the war-time economy has emboldened and benefited the region’s smugglers. For those who can assume the risk, the reward is huge: according to some, cannabis can sell in Turkey for 25 times what it would in Lebanon.
In Israel, increased border controls have cut supply. The new security fence along Israel’s Egyptian border and tighter security on the Lebanese border have reportedly choked off smuggling routes, sending prices soaring. According to some estimates, 70 percent of Israel’s cannabis supply came from Egypt and Lebanon a decade ago, but today, less than a third does. More Israelis are turning to growing marijuana in hydroponic operations, but the higher-quality drugs can cost three times as much as cannabis smuggled through the Sinai.
In a region torn by conflict, marijuana prompts a measure of unity: there are rising calls in Israel and Lebanon to legalize the plant. So far, the calls have created nothing but smoke.
This piece is a part of Mezze, a monthly short article series spotlighting societal trends across the region. It originally appeared in the Middle East Program's monthly newsletter, Middle East Notes and Comment. For more information and to receive our mailings, please contact the Middle East Program.