In Israel, the parliament has approved a bill that decriminalizes marijuana, and a neighboring country, Lebanon, is considering legalizing the growing of medical marijuana.

Israel Decriminalizes

In Israel, lawmakers expressed hope that decriminalization would reduce the number of people serving time for possession of minor amounts of marijuana. Before facing jail time under the new law, a person would have to be caught twice within five years. The law does not apply to minors, prisoners, and soldiers. The bill received support from both left- and right-wing politicians. For the left, the bill raises hopes of full legalization, while on the right the hope is that fewer people will go to jail for simple possession. Israel’s decriminalization program is slated to last three years, and fines from tickets for possession are expected to pay for the program’s research.

Israel is a world leader in cannabis research. For example, a recent study conducted there indicates that cannabis may be an effective treatment for inflammatory bowel disease. In addition, the government is generally friendly to cannabis research. According to nanalyze.com, one growing facility produces “80 tons of cannabis per year,” more than enough for the small country to be an exporter. Israel is also a source of many cannabis startup companies.

Lebanon Mulls Marijuana

In Lebanon, support for starting a cultivation program is the result of a report by a multinational corporation, McKinsey & Co., which the Lebanese government hired to provide economic advice. The report does not explicitly endorse legalization, but it does point out the economic benefits that are likely to come as a result. Although cannabis is already being grown illegally in Lebanon, most notably in the Northern Bekaa Valley, Islamic custom frowns on intoxicants, making legalization controversial. Growers and users, for example, face social rejection. The proposal of McKinsey & Co. focuses on a program like Israel’s, in which marijuana is grown under controlled conditions for export to the medical market. CBD preparations are one example.

While supporters of the plan tout how legalization would bring money to the country, opponents say that if legalized, marijuana will not benefit ordinary Lebanese people but will instead profit criminal organizations. According Business Insider, Lebanon is already a leader in hashish production. Lebanon’s trade minister supports legalization, saying that Lebanon is already producing some of the best cannabis in the world. With legalization, the hope is that Lebanon’s black market will diminish and its legal market will bring much-needed jobs.

Another objection to legalization in Lebanon, however, is that the country would have to compete with other countries that already have medical marijuana cultivation and processing programs in place. Lebanon’s neighbor, Israel, is one example. Nevertheless, full legalization in Canada seems to be having an effect on other countries. Lebanon may soon legalize its already-existing marijuana market, and Thailand is another country that is considering going the way of Canada. Mexico, for example, recently decriminalized possession of small amounts, and efforts are underway toward some form of legalization. If Lebanon can legalize marijuana, it seems likely that other countries looking for an export crop may soon do so as well.

What do you think? Will Lebanon legalize its marijuana production? Will Israel fully legalize marijuana in the next few years? Leave a comment below.

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