Crime & Justice

Lebanon makes largest ever cannabis drug bust

By AFP

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A worker cultivates plants at a cannabis plantation in the village of Yammouneh in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley on July 23rd, 2018. [Joseph Eid/AFP]

Lebanon's security forces said Friday (April 10th) they had made their largest cannabis seizure in history last month, unearthing 25 tonnes of the drug intended for Africa.

The country on March 15th announced a lockdown to stop the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which has now officially infected 609 and killed 20 nationwide.

On March 16th, the Internal Security Forces stopped "eight trucks headed to the Beirut port carrying thousands of plastic bags of soil", the security branch said.

After inspection, "huge quantities of hashish reaching around 25 tonnes were seized... that had been professionally hidden inside bags of soil", it said in a statement.

"This quantity is the largest seized in the history of Lebanon," it added, and had been intended for "an African country".

The marijuana came in a variety of kinds including "Beirut mood", "Spring flower", or even "Kiki do you love me", the ISF said.

Clamping down on drug trade

Consuming, growing and selling marijuana is illegal in Lebanon, but in the east of the country its production blossomed during the 1975-1990 civil war.

Authorities have since struggled to clamp down on the trade and its production has turned into a multi-million-dollar business. Security forces regularly bust attempted drug exports at Beirut airport and have destroyed marijuana fields.

Hizbullah has a long history of involvement with the drug trade, with operatives linked to the party arrested on drug trafficking charges in a number of countries in recent years.

Hizbullah’s involvement in the drug trade has its roots in its Bekaa Valley stronghold, a remote rural area known for being an active producer of hashish and opium.

The party began to exploit these crops for its own gain, and later expanded into other substances, such as Captagon, an amphetamine widely used by combatants in Syria's war, where Hizbullah is fighting in support of the regime.

In 2016, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime ranked Lebanon as the third main source of cannabis resin after Morocco and Afghanistan.

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