Many farmers began planting hashish because of the lack of development in their towns. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
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It takes two hours from Baalbek to reach the hash-filled hinterlands of Hermel.For Jalal Mahfouz, head of the Planning and Development Center in Hermel, any move to legalize the illegal industry, which is believed to be worth millions of dollars, would backfire by reducing prices and demand.He argued that hashish was currently expensive because it was illegal, and that if that changed the plant's value would plummet. Cultivating cannabis, whose female buds can be transformed into top-grade hashish, became popular during Lebanon's 15-year Civil War, when some 80,000 dunums yielded a minimum of $500 million worth of drugs.The industry's roots were never truly ripped out, and cannabis plantations are now flourishing with near impunity.Mahfouz admitted that the only good thing that could arise from legalizing cannabis would be its medicinal use, which would turn the drug from a substance that does you harm into one that does you good.For Hermel's hash farmers, however, the debate is moot. For the moment, it seems the cannabis will keep growing out of the reach of the state.
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