The town of Brital, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, is a jarring contrast of poverty and ostentatious wealth. Busted-up old vans drive on potholed roads next to gleaming Bentleys and Range Rovers with no number plates and blacked-out windows. Unemployment is rife, and yet the landscape is dotted by large gated mansions.
The town is home to some of Lebanon’s most powerful cannabis-growing families, who cultivate their crop openly in the fields nearby and possess a vast arsenal of weapons that has put them out of the reach of the law. Over the years, it has gained a reputation for being a no-go zone. But if economists and consultants are to have their way, Brital and the entire area will be transformed by the creation of a billion-dollar legal cannabis industry.
The Lebanese government will soon study proposals to legalise cannabis cultivation to export for medicinal purposes. The plan is part of a package of reforms proposed by McKinsey & Company – a global consultancy firm hired to come up with a five-year plan to rescue the ailing economy.
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