September 17, 2014 11:30 UTC

As It Is

Syrian Civil War Helps Lebanon's Cannabis Farmers

A man works in a field of cannabis in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.
A man works in a field of cannabis in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.
Civil War Helps Lebanon's Cannabis Farmers
Civil War Helps Lebanon's Cannabis Farmersi
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With a civil war raging in Syria, Lebanese security forces are busy guarding the country's borders.  So busy, in fact, that for the past three years, there has 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.  It is in this area that the cannabis plant is squeezing out less valuable crops such as wheat, barley and vegetables.  
                                                       
Cannabis. Marijuana. Pot.Cannabis. Marijuana. Pot.
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Cannabis. Marijuana. Pot.
Cannabis. Marijuana. Pot.
The spiky-leafed plants are the source of cannabis resin, known as hashish.  It is a substance that is much in demand by recreational drug makers worldwide. 

Not only is it in demand, it is easy to grow and does not need much water.  Ali Nasri Shamas says he makes much more money growing cannabis than growing any other crop.  He is prepared to fight for his fields.
 
"We want to live as everyone else does.  If they want trouble, 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."
                                                                   
Cannabis is an illegal crop in Lebanon.  The government has raided farms, destroyed fields and imposed penalties.  Officials in Lebanon’s Drug Enforcement Unit say that from the 1990 until the 2012, getting rid of cannabis was a yearly thing.  This has not been the case since the beginning of Syria's war, more than three years ago.  They simply do not have the resources.
                                                                 
Bekaa Valley farmers always have resisted government efforts to get rid of the marijuana plant.  Now they openly talk about plans to expand its production.  And it is not just the farmers who like this idea.  Some economists say the government would benefit from making cannabis legal like tobacco, because it could collect taxes from cannabis growers.  They say that exporting cannabis to the U.S. and Europe would add as much as $2 billion to the Lebanese economy.  
A man stands amidst rubble at a damaged site hit by what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. June 3, 2014. (REUTERS/Mahmoud Hebbo)A man stands amidst rubble at a damaged site hit by what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. June 3, 2014. (REUTERS/Mahmoud Hebbo)
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A man stands amidst rubble at a damaged site hit by what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. June 3, 2014. (REUTERS/Mahmoud Hebbo)
A man stands amidst rubble at a damaged site hit by what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. June 3, 2014. (REUTERS/Mahmoud Hebbo)
              
Last year when fighting on Syria’s border increased, Lebanese officials quietly stopped their policing of cannabis farms.
 
This report was written by Zlatica Hoke.   I’m Christopher Cruise.
 
And I’m Anna Matteo.  Join us again tomorrow for another As It Is!  And look for us on Facebook, iTunes, Linkedin and Twitter.
 
What do you think about farmers growing cannabis, an illegal crop, to make money? Should the crop be legalized?  Let us know in our comment section where you can share your opinions and discuss the issue with other listeners. 
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Lebanon's Marijuana Farmers

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Tin Phuong from: American
06/11/2014 12:57 PM


I agree with what Jessica said, marijuana is something so removed from society
It is a dangerous thing
I have a friend and he was also addicted to drugs but now he is addiction, I was very happy for him
During his time in rehab, I had to visit him
I looked haggard than he, at that time I felt that a second drug is not to be touched even once
This world is also quite realistic, when you were in my addiction rehab is no one to visit, but when he camps out and get a job and now he became rich, people surrounded him again
It is this world so that everyone is very real
So do not touch on things that should not be touched

In Response

by: Moderator
06/11/2014 1:28 PM
There's an expression that goes, "birds of feather flock together." It means that often people who like to do the same things and live the same way hang out together.

It seems that you are a good friend. You stuck with him "through thick and thin," meaning you were there for him during the bad times and now the good times. Not all people do that.

Thanks for sharing your story with us!


by: desi from: indonesia
06/09/2014 3:01 PM
the goverment shouldn't illegal it, althought it can be good in economics but itsn't good for social function except for medicine. if many people buy it uncontrolled and use it for their 'hapiness' it can give bad impact from any side. the point is more bad effects than good effects.

In Response

by: Moderator
06/10/2014 1:25 PM
Thanks for adding your comments to the conversation! Very good points. It's important to weigh the good with the bad.


by: Sarun from: Thailand
06/09/2014 1:42 AM
Drug I'm not agree if use wrong way.

In Response

by: Moderator
06/10/2014 1:27 PM
Many listeners feel that if is used the wrong way, (then) marijuana should not be a legal crop.

Thanks for writing!


by: zakaria from: morocco
06/08/2014 10:19 PM
it must be illegal exept for medicine, in this case ,the government must collect all from farmers ,and all crops must be controlled

In Response

by: Moderator
06/10/2014 1:34 PM
Many feel that taxing the drug could help the economy. But they also feel that it should be allowed to damage society.

Thanks for your comment!


by: Alex from: Sankt-Peterburg
06/07/2014 7:01 PM
Civil war helps Lebanon's cannabis farmers. When there explodes a stray bomb, they die from laughter. At least someone well.

In Response

by: Moderator
06/10/2014 1:37 PM
Even though they exist, it is very difficult to address the other effects of war besides the human cost -- meaning the people who have died. Very.
Thanks for writing.


by: iwan from: indonesia
06/07/2014 1:57 PM
Good article. Its seems happen too in Indonesia. The police officers have problem to rid the cannabis farms, because the area so wide and the less of officers. I think it become serious issue for a lot of country. By the way, cannabis, weed, and marijuana, it is all the same thing, right? .

In Response

by: Moderator
06/10/2014 1:18 PM
Policing resources are indeed "stretched thin" (at its limit/very limited) right now in Lebanon.

To answer your other question, he plant's name is cannabis sativa. Cannabis for short. The fiber of cannabis is called hemp and is used to make many things. The cannabis buds are sometimes grown a certain way to produce a resin which is used to make drugs. That product has many slang word, the most common being marijuana, weed and pot.

Thanks for writing!


by: Jessica from: American
06/07/2014 9:06 AM
Marijuana is a dangerous, adversely affect many aspects of society. At the same time it can be addictive at any time, causing hazardous to life. Called it illegal crops then need to remove it from this society. This is an essential to being made ​​for modern life now. To have a better society and a day to go up, we must eliminate the so-called right of MARIJUANA

In Response

by: Moderator
06/10/2014 1:36 PM
Drug abuse, even abuse of legal prescription drugs, is a very real problem.
Thank you so much for adding to the conversation.


by: Chi-Shong Wang from: Taiwan
06/07/2014 9:03 AM
I really don't understand why cannabis is illegal. Is it like coca which cocaine derived from? Why a plant like cannabis that used to make 'recreational drug' is banned by Lebanon government?

In Response

by: Moderator
06/10/2014 1:42 PM
There is an argument in the U.S. that alcohol and prescription drug abuse are bigger health threats. Researchers still do not much about the long-term effects of marijuana. It will interesting to see how this "plays out." (to see what happens in the end)

Thanks for joining the conversation!


by: khaleel from: JORDAN
06/07/2014 1:56 AM
in my opinion, the government should legalize the cannabics growing to give a chance to the farmer to benefit and make money.
like the Qatt growing in Yemen in which the citizens and government benefit from growing Qatt.

In Response

by: Moderator
06/10/2014 1:42 PM
Thanks for sharing a point of view from Jordan!


by: patrick from: indonesia
06/07/2014 1:17 AM
i disagree if canabis become legal plant for farming. people who greedy and money oriented will only thinking about their own interest, they will ignore other people, there plenty more plants that can resulting money without harming other people especially young generation.

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