LEBANON: Lebanese marijuana grower Abu Sami is practically rubbing his hands together with glee: the Syrian conflict has paralyzed authorities at home and left the nearby border virtually uncontrolled.
“This year, the harvest was abundant, and the authorities have left us alone because they are otherwise occupied,” he tells AFP in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa region.
In the past, the Lebanese army would descend annually to destroy some of the illicit crop, but this year the harvest has gone untouched.
The area shares a long, porous border with Syria and is a stronghold of the Shiite Lebanese movement Hezbollah, which is fighting alongside the Syrian regime against a 32-month-old uprising.
After the harvest in Abu Sami’s bucolic village, at the foot of an arid mountain, marijuana is brought to buildings where it is dried and processed into hashish.
All along the winding roads of the Shiite hamlet, men and women work on the crop behind half-closed curtains, and defend the industry as their only source of employment.
During Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, Lebanese hashish, which is known for its quality, fed a flourishing industry that generated hundreds of millions of dollars a year in income.