As fighting flares up, Lebanese cannabis growers expect a bumper crop
Farmers in eastern Lebanon say times of war cause authorities to turn a blind eye to the area's drug trade.
For the cannabis-growing residents of eastern Lebanon, recent internecine fighting in the country has been a blessing, albeit one covered in hash resin and dollar signs.
To these villagers, gunshots and warfare are good for business, and the last three years have been far too quiet for their taste, leaving the authorities more than enough time and resources to come for their crops.
Peace and quiet frees the Lebanese Army to help local law enforcement combat the drug trade, especially in the summer, when soldiers and police are deployed to cannabis fields to rip and cut the flowering stalks of marijuana set for processing and export to Israel, Europe and beyond.
The army has signaled that it could step up its involvement to bring an end to fighting that broke out last week - the country's worst internal clashes since the end of the civil war in 1990, which has left at least 54 people dead and scores more wounded.
The last time the cannabis farmers of Lebanon had such a bumper crop was during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, when the security situation in the country brought anti-drug law enforcement to a halt. With fighting flaring up again in Lebanon, the farmers can expect another marijuana windfall, especially if the army is deployed in force throughout the country's cities to quell the recent bloodshed.
Newspaper reports have stated that even in peacetime security forces are often wary of entering the cannabis growing areas, as many of the farmers and their security guards are heavily armed.
An investigation by the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat has found that over 25,000 acres of cannabis were planted in Lebanon this year, an amount that should yield an impressive amount of hashish for the area's farmers.
A report compiled by the United States Government in 2003 praised Lebanon's efforts to combat cannabis cultivation, as well as the Syrian government's cooperation in fighting the drug trade.
Nonetheless, in spite of the profitability of the drug trade, little improvement has been seen recently in the quality of life of the estimated 180,000 residents of eastern Lebanon.
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