A cannabis field is seen near a vineyard on the outskirts of Deir al-Ahmar in the Beakaa Valley, one of the poorest regions in Lebanon and notorious for its cannabis production, on October 3, 2017. AFP / JOSEPH EID
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Sitting among the vines of Sauvignon Blanc and Tempranillo growing on his spectacular farm in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, Michel Emad remembers the not-so-distant time when he opted to cultivate cannabis."Everyone used to grow hashish, that was what the market wanted, there was no alternative crop," said Emad, a father of two in his 50s with neatly trimmed hair.Now he and the 220 farmers from the Coteaux Heliopolis cooperative are growing grapes for winemaking in the northern Bekaa Valley's Deir al-Ahmar region.While cannabis farming has only been feebly challenged by the authorities over the years, it remains illegal and the small cooperative has succeeded in luring some producers away from the risky business.Emad spent three years growing cannabis, like many other villagers in Lebanon's Bekaa who see it as their only means of survival.The security forces regularly raid the cannabis farms in the area and Emad's fields were wiped out twice before he eventually decided to join the cooperative in 2003 .
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