How Does Recreational Cannabis Legalization Impact the Future of Medical Cannabis?
by Chane Leigh
Lebanon, a Middle Eastern country renowned for its limestone caves, historic mosques, and classical Roman ruins went down in history last year when it became the first-ever Arabic state to legalize medical and industrial cannabis cultivation.
Despite the recent legalization, the country is no stranger to the cannabis plant with illegal plantations speckled around its mountainous landscape. Nonetheless, medical cannabis patients are still in desperate need of their medicine. Why? Because the law’s parliamentary adoption (which was largely spurred by the pandemic-triggered economic glut) has yet to be fully effectuated.
The Lebanese Parliament legalized cannabis farming for medicinal purposes on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. While Alain Aoun, senior member of Parliament in the Free Patriotic Movement, and other parliamentary members don’t want to “speculate on numbers,” Aoun claims that medical cannabis is “worth a try” for economic growth and exports could play a big role.
Moreover, the country’s outgoing Economy Minister Raed Khoury recently predicted that medical cannabis exports could attract annual revenue to the amount of $1 billion. Since the country is facing an uphill financial battle—mainly due to economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic—legalization couldn’t have come at a better time.
According to Aoun, Parliament’s legalization effort was “really driven by economic motives, nothing else.” Aoun went on to say that fellow members of his Lebanese Christian political party, which was founded by President Michel Aoun, “have moral and social reservations, but today there is the need to help the economy by any means.”
According to experts, these reservations revolve around things like the unemployment and social diversion that consumers may face due to the plant’s widely unresolved stigma. Nonetheless, many Lebanese people choose to self-medicate with cannabis, which has not been strictly outlawed in Christianity or Islam.
The first-documented therapeutic application of medical cannabis in Arabic medicine was during the ninth century when the herb was relied on as a treatment for ear diseases. Acceptance of the plant has come a long way since then.
Although it remains illegal to grow cannabis in Lebanon, the plant has been farmed in the Bekaa Valley for years. During the 400 years of Ottoman rule, hemp was frequently cultivated for the purpose of creating products for the navy.
The Arabic country officially prohibited illicit drugs in 1926 but saw market growth amid the civil war from 1975-1990. Some years later in 1998, the Lebanese government implemented a narcotic law that prohibited the cultivation, production, and consumption of illegal drugs—including cannabis.
In spite of restrictions, more than 20,000 families were active in the country’s illegal cannabis industry. Additionally, Lebanese farmers proceeded to capitalize on cannabis production opportunities amid the Syrian conflict, which resulted in lax governmental surveillance and loose border entry rules.
Fast-forward to 2019, and Lebanon started to acknowledge the green plant’s money-making potential. It was during the year 2019 that legalization was considered by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Shortly after, the subcommittee for cannabis cultivation unveiled a draft of the legalization law that was approved by the Parliament in April 2020.
In separate yet related news, the China Infrastructure Construction Corp. (CHNC) is working hard to present people in the Middle East with medical cannabis education via new brand ambassador Drs. Nada AL-Rubaiee.
According to a press release announcing the news, AL-Rubaiee’s position as new brand ambassador will assist clinical research provider CHNC in developing international partnerships with academic organizations. Boasting a bachelor’s degree from Leiden University in the Netherlands, AL-Rubaiee will serve as an extension of the Pharmacology University.
It’s not just her education that makes her a suitable fit for the role, including her Doctor of Health Administration degree from Walden University (USA), but also the fact that her career history includes a hands-on role as the Managing Director of Nadafarm Healthcare. AL-Rubaiee also has an Ethnic Business Women award under her belt.
As a globally flourishing industry, many Middle Eastern countries—including Lebanon—are looking to medical cannabis as a way of boosting their economy. Among all of the countries in the Middle East, Lebanon had the second-highest population density per square kilometer last year, trailing closely behind Bahrain.
With that being said, education of this kind could put Lebanon (not to mention other countries) in a prime position to capitalize on a market that generated USD $8,926.6 million on a worldwide scale in 2020 alone.
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