El legado colonial del control de drogas en Líbano

Marc Fayad - Shutterstock


El legado colonial del control de drogas en Líbano

13 junio 2024
Michelle Wazan
Talking Drugs

Un enfoque nuevo y justo sobre las drogas requiere reconsiderar y subvertir el legado colonial e imperialista del control de drogas en el país. Más información, en inglés, está disponible abajo.

How we think about, regulate, moralise or criminalise drugs is often not a response to domestic considerations, but a negotiation with global forces in an uneven international environment. Drug control in Lebanon is no exception to this rule. Its policies, since their inception, are the result of colonial and neo-colonial impositions and local resistance to these international impositions.

Colonial beginnings

The colonial roots of drug policies are clear in Lebanon. The first drug control imperatives were introduced under the French mandate in the 1920s. In fact, the 1922 decision of the League of Nations that put Lebanon and Syria under French rule specifically mentions in article 12 that France will adhere, on behalf of the countries under its mandate, to conventions related to “drug trafficking” among other things.

The imposition of prohibitionist policies had to contend with the reality that 50% of Lebanon’s economy was reliant on cannabis. As a result of the decline of the silk industry in the early 20th century, many farmers resorted to cannabis cultivation, which had been part of the Lebanese agricultural landscape for centuries. French authorities were criticised by local politicians for prohibiting cannabis cultivation, which was a source of income for the villagers. Lacking power in the rural areas, and unwilling to alienate powerful landowners whose support they relied on, the French authorities resorted to a “theatrical” implementation of drug policies, aimed at satisfying international requirements without ostracising domestic political forces.

From independence to the war on drugs

The intersection of colonial impositions with local negotiations, resulting in performative drug control policies, would become the hallmark of Lebanon’s approach.

After its independence, Lebanon continued the French charade. After declaring that it would take drastic measures to curb hashish production during WWII, members of the British Security Mission who assisted Lebanese authorities admitted privately that they had to apply “considerable direct pressure . . . on a reluctant Gendarmerie” to get any action done.