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De Facto Hash Truce in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #795)
Politics & Advocacy

The Lebanese government will not attempt to eradicate marijuana fields blooming across the country's Bekaa Valley, Beirut's Daily Star newspaper reported Friday. Sources cited by the Star said it was because of the fragile security situation in the area near the border with Syria and because the government had been unable to live up to pledges to provide financial compensation to farmers whose crops were destroyed last year.

marijuana field, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon (
They are also up against Bekaa Valley marijuana farmers in no mood to see their livelihood messed with.

"In the absence of alternatives, we will break the hands and legs of anyone who dares destroy our crops," one of the region's biggest growers, Ali Nasri Shamas, told the Daily Star. "We will not be gentle with [the security forces] like we usually are," added Shamas, who is wanted on several arrest warrants, including on a charge of attacking the Army. "It will be a full-blown war if necessary."

This after last year's eradication effort led to clashes between would-be eradicators and farmers armed with rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortars. Those clashes, which resulted in the destruction of bulldozers hired by the government to plow under pot fields, ended only when the government promised to pay compensation to farmers. That didn't happen. The Finance Ministry said it didn't have the money.

This year, although the Higher Defense Council had fighting drug cultivation on the agenda this week, sources told the Daily Star that a "tacit agreement" last month between government officials and local leaders from the Baalbek-Hermel region in the northern Bekaa meant that eradication efforts weren't going to happen this year.

"The Army is exhausted by the roving security incidents and the farmers are poor and angry," said a political source. "Everyone wants to avoid a major confrontation with the military. No one wants carnage."

The Syrian civil war raging next door has led to repeated clashes inside Lebanon, especially since the open involvement of Hezbollah members in the fighting earlier this year. The Bekaa Valley is also a Hezbollah stronghold.

Lebanese hash provided funding for feuding militias in the Lebanese civil war between 1975 and 1990, and grew into a multi-billion dollar industry before the government cracked down under international pressure in the late 1990s. But its eradication campaigns have often generated violent clashes, and promised alternative development schemes have failed to materialize.

Now, the marijuana fields are back in a big war. The Daily Star described roads in the Bekaa Valley "lined with dark green cannabis fields."

This year's pot crop would be "wonderful," Shamas said. "We moved from 5,000 dunums of cannabis-cultivated land to 45,000 dunums," he said. (A dunum is about a quarter of an acre.) There is no shortage of dealers to buy the resulting hashish, he said, adding that it was destined for markets in Egypt, Turkey, and Europe.

While Shamas reveled in his anti-government outlaw status, other marijuana farmers said they had few other options. "We have no other choice," said Abu Asaad from Yammouneh. "Our region is highly poor and neglected and I prefer planting cannabis to turning into a bandit or a car thief."

The farmers scoffed at international aid and alternative development programs, saying they had been a bad joke.

"It's high time international donors realize that their money is not spent to devise tangible agricultural policies, but rather goes straight to the pockets of officials," Abu Asaad said. "Eradication campaigns are carried out at our expense and used to secure more funds, which will surely be embezzled."

Meanwhile, to save face, Lebanese authorities may do some Potemkin eradication.

"The police and Army might destroy a small plot of land where cannabis is grown in the next few weeks just to demonstrate that they have not dropped the ball on the matter, but I totally rule out a large-scale campaign," a source told the Daily Star.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


mexweeds (not verified)

Along with Afghani black, a business which successively US and Soviet puppet regimes attacked and destroyed giving way to heroin, the fragrant Red Lebanese was my favorite. 

"Traditionally" Europeans and others have mixed hashish in a H-ot B-urning O-verdose M-onoxide joint with tobacco, making it easier to "smoke" (burn) (but you should want to vape instead anyway). 

What is needed is for a worldwide Haschischpfeifenindustrie, or one-hitter manufacturing movement to rise up and provide everyone who is going to use this Lebanese with a 25-mg-serving-size long-stemmed utensil in which the hashish can be vaped "PURE" i.e. without mixing in any addictive nicotine tobacco, 40 tokes per gram.

Sat, 08/03/2013 - 6:24pm Permalink
Anonymousdiy (not verified)

In reply to by mexweeds (not verified)

Mexweed, I like your vape advocacy but in light of the recent outpouring of pen vape tech, and the impracticality of holding a lighter under a one-hitter that becomes too hot to hold, I suggest you advocate better and cheaper vaporizers. Use your expertise to review vape pens. There are lots of new vape companies that create a lot of noise about "only for wax" or "only for oils" creating confusion in the consumer's mind in order to maximize profit. We need cheaper and multiform cannabis vapers. The ridiculous price of some vaporizers (upwards of $600) needs to change.
Mon, 08/05/2013 - 6:26pm Permalink
kickback (not verified)

You would think that attacking people over a plant would be of no concern to the Lebanese government , considering the neighborhoods current circumstances .  Reading this article is like reading an article from the Stone Age . War against any " PLANT " is a fool`s errand . Does history not prove this over and over again everyday ? You can bet that it will tomorrow also . Amazing .

Sun, 08/04/2013 - 2:43am Permalink
Jesse Owens South (not verified)

What's interesting about Arab Spring is that to my knowledge there has not been any interest in legalizing cannabis by the new leaders. When the people of Egypt rose up and threw out the creeps, I never heard of any group saying, yeah, and now that the people are in control lets totally legalize cannabis for adults! Are Arabs in the Middle East incapable of democracy? How do you go from despotism for a millennium to a government where the people get a say in how they live their lives, and what they put into their bodies overnight? *Does anyone know how Arab Spring has affected cannabis prohibition in the Middle East?*
Mon, 08/05/2013 - 6:52pm Permalink
Samer Habra (not verified)

SWIM is a Lebanese citizen living in Beirut. last week he was parking on the seaside at 2:00 am eating a sandwich he and his friend, when suddenly out of nowhere a police patrol parked beside them and asked them for IDs, They were acting very normal and cooperated with them until one of the police asked them to step out of the car to get a full search, only to find a small piece of marijuana in SWIM's front pocket...Almost half a gram.... automatically they cuffed them and took them to the police station where they got mocked...harrassed and abused... They got detained for 14 hours and they didn't get beaten only because SWIM and his friend had some cash on the side and some connections. they let them go after they made them sign a paper agreeing on coming back to the station for a pee test. The problem here is not what SWIM passed through, the real problem was that there were 3 other guys with the same case in the cell where SWIM and his friend stayed the night and they had been locked there for 3 months only because they had no money to bribe the chief. SWIM doesn't know what to say here.. Shame on such government. SWIM hopes that his English was bearable.

Thu, 10/17/2013 - 6:35pm Permalink

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