The Lebanese Parliament voted on Tuesday to legalize the cultivation of medical marijuana, making it the first Arab country to legalize medical marijuana at the time of economic collapse.
At present, the coronavirus has exacerbated the economic crisis in Lebanon.
The lawmakers meet in a 1000-seat conference hall to maintain proper social distance. At the same time, anti-government protesters demonstrated outside .
Just as the UK economy was in trouble, MPs also approved the redistribution of the $ 40 million loan from the World Bank to help fight covid19. According to official statistics, covid19 has caused 677 infections and 21 deaths across the country.
Outside the venue, dozens of demonstrators tried to resume a large-scale anti-government protest. This activity has been shaking Lebanon since last October.
They were driving in a noisy convoy, with placards on the cars, drivers honking, passengers waving national flags, leaning out of the window and wearing masks.
Another item on the agenda of the three-day meeting was a divergent amnesty proposal, but the motion has been sent back to a parliamentary committee for revision.
“Today, instead of passing an amnesty law … they can pass a law on the independence of the judiciary,” said young demonstrator Judd Sakaye.
“We hope to recover the stolen money,” he said. He refers to the Lebanese ruling elite transferring billions of dollars abroad, while ordinary citizens are unable to withdraw their deposits from the bank.
Similar protests took place in Sidon and Tripoli.
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The purpose of the vote to legalize the cultivation of medical marijuana is to increase the income of the troubled economy.
Lebanon had previously banned the cultivation, sale and consumption of cannabis, but illegal production in the east of the country has developed into a multi-million dollar industry after decades.
The legislator also passed a law to fight corruption in the public sector, and established a national agency to fight corruption.
Amnesty plan sparks controversy
The proposal to grant amnesty to thousands of detainees and suspend arrest warrants for thousands of others remains a controversial issue.
Supporters, including the Shia movement Hezbollah and Amal and the Sunni Future Movement, said the amnesty may reduce the overcrowding of 9,000 inmates in the prison.
However, opponents including the Christian Parliament Group believe that this bill is only to increase public support.
For a long time, amnesty has been a requirement for the families of about 1,200 so-called “Islamic prisoners”. Most of these “Islamic prisoners” come from Tripoli, the Sunni-majority city, where the future activities of the former prime minister dominate.
They were accused of committing crimes including fighting and attacking the army, participating in urban conflicts and planning bomb attacks.
The family also called for the release of thousands of other detainees from the eastern regions of Babek and Khmel, where Hezbollah and the Speaker of the Parliament, the Amal Movement, are powerful.
Most of them were charged with drug-related crimes, including illegal cultivation of marijuana, or other crimes such as car theft.
The economic crisis in Lebanon since the 1975-1990 civil war is now worsened by the blockade. According to official estimates, the poor population has risen to 45% of the total population.
After the new government came to power in January, protests gradually declined and since the coronavirus began to block in mid-March, demonstrators have basically stayed at home.
But on Friday, hundreds of people again held a protest in Tripoli to commemorate the street movement that began six months ago demanding a complete reform of the ruling class that was generally considered incompetent and corrupt.
Lebanon is one of the most indebted countries in the world, and its debt is equivalent to 170% of its GDP.
Due to the country ’s severe liquidity crisis, banks have banned the transfer of funds overseas and gradually restricted the withdrawal of US dollars, which was not suspended until last month.
The Lebanese pound has been pegged to the US dollar for decades, but has lost half of its official value on the black market in recent months.
The official exchange rate remains at 1507 Lebanese pounds.
Earlier this month, the bank set the exchange rate of 1 U.S. dollar to 2,600 pounds , but the exchange dealer on the black market on Tuesday opened an exchange rate of more than 3200 pounds to 1 U.S. dollar.
On Tuesday, the Lebanese Central Bank asked banks to allow depositors with foreign currency accounts to withdraw Lebanese pound deposits at the “market exchange rate,” which could mean 2,600 pounds to 1 dollar.