Not to belittle our battle here in the United States, where cops think they are in the army when dealing with marijuana growers, hash producers in Lebanon actually battle with their army disrupting production on an annual basis.
Or, they used to. These days, with the war in Syria just 30 miles from the hash production center of the Bekaa Valley, the army has much bigger fish to fry.
Still, the farmers are ready. Armed with a revolver and a machine gun in the back of his car, Ali Nasri Shamas says he’s ready to fight to keep his cash crop alive so he can feed his family. In the past, that has meant bulldozers and armed vehicles uprooting cannabis crops. “If they want a confrontation that’s no problem for us, it will be harvest season soon,” he tells Reuters this week.
On average, Shamas says he grows about 135 acres of various crops each year. And while he fetches a good price for most everything he grows, hash is the most profitable. It costs just $150 to grow a quarter-acre of cannabis that will then be sold for $3,000 in hash. Put another way, a couple of pounds of apples will get you $.30. A couple of pounds of pot will sell for $1,700. That’s money worth fighting for.
In 2012, groups of farmers banded together to battle the troops. That drew the attention of the government, who at the time promised to compensate hash producers if they would stop growing cannabis. That didn’t really work out though, and now they are back to the same push-and-shove as before — just with a small break this year it seems.
But still, Shamas says he would rather it be different.
“We don’t like cultivating cannabis by force and making problems,” he tells Reuters. “When the state legalizes it and gives licenses, as they do for tobacco cultivation, we would abide by that, and the state would receive (revenues) from us.”