Lebanon preparing to legalize growing cannabis, says House speaker

A cannabis field is seen near a vineyard on the outskirts of Deir al-Ahmar in the Bekaa Valley, one of the poorest regions in Lebanon and notorious for its cannabis production.

Beirut (CNN)Lebanon's parliament is preparing to legalize cannabis cultivation and its production for medicinal use, House Speaker Nabih Berri told US Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard on Tuesday according to Lebanon's official news agency.

Berri offered no timeframe for the move, which would face a difficult path until the country has a government in place. Elections in May saw Prime Minister Saad Hariri's bloc shrink and negotiations to form a new administration have been taking place in the weeks since then.
But Berri is the most senior Lebanese figure to publicly endorse the legalization of cannabis for medicinal use. In an interview with Bloomberg this month, Economy Minister Raed Khoury boasted that the quality of Lebanon's cannabis was "one of the best in the world."
Political backing for legalizing cannabis farming gained momentum after consulting firm McKinsey & Co. sent the Lebanese government a roughly 1,000-page report in which it recommended that and other moves to boost Lebanon's cash-strapped economy, which suffers from slow growth -- around 2% this year -- and ballooning debt.
    The consulting firm believes that Lebanon's clandestine cannabis farms may offer a quick fix. Lebanon is one of the top five producers of cannabis resin, otherwise known as hashish or hash, in the world, according to a 2016 report from United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's (UNODC) World Drug Report.