Cannabis law and legislation in Lebanon

Medical use

As per Article 3 of the Law No. 178/2020 (the Law), it is possible, by a decision of the Regulatory Authority for Cannabis Cultivation for Medical and Industrial Use (the Authority), to authorise the cultivation of the cannabis plant, whether in the form of seeds or seedlings to develop products including fibres for industrial use, cosmetic products, oils, extracts, and compounds used for medical, pharmaceutical and industrial purposes. The medicinal preparation consists of products holding a therapeutic purpose containing one of the substances placed under control: THC and CBD.

The Law highlights the "transparency and tracking principle" which dictates that the Authority should monitor the execution of the Law throughout all different practices related to the cannabis market and is responsible for all import and export activities related to it. The Authority also grants licences for the cultivation of a certain amount of the cannabis plant for medicinal or industrial use according to specific standards and conditions within a controlled area. It is also responsible for ensuring good implementation of the Law, delineating geographical areas where cultivation can take place as well as determining the concentration of THC and CBD allowed in plantations and products. More importantly, the Authority is under obligation to prevent monopoly and flooding of the market. When it comes to penalties, the Law confirms those already put by Narcotics Law no 673/98 and adds additional sanctions; and stating that an accessory to a violation is subject to the same sanctions as the principal.

Recreational use

In Lebanon, it remains illegal to use cannabis for recreational purposes.

Industrial use

In addition to the list of applicants subject to licensing, research and development facilities in matters related to the cannabis plant are to function exclusively under permits.

The planted and cultivated cannabis plants should have less than 1% of THC with varying levels of other cannabinoids including CBD. The monitoring and enforcement of this standard is achieved by the Authority. Finally, to raise awareness on the usage of cannabis, companies subject to this Law must allocate no less than 0.5% of their net sales to regularly organise campaigns across Lebanon. These companies should also allocate 3% of their net sales as contributions to civic organisations whose objective is to provide rehabilitation and aid to drug addicts, and to help them get reintegrated into society.

CBD is a controlled substance under the Law. The use of CBD in cosmetics is subject to licensing. The Law does not make any reference to the possibility of CBD usage in food production; and this remains an ambiguous issue. The use of CBD in manufactured food products could be accepted subject to licensing by the Authority provided they are sold as pharmaceutical products. However, this foregoing interpretation remains subject to any additional regulations to be issued in Lebanon and the decisions of the Authority.

Patentability

The Law legalising the medical and industrial use of cannabis plants is silent on intellectual property rights.

Referring to the Lebanese Patent Law No. 240/2000, which adopts the principle and exceptions stated in the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, all inventions are principally patentable, as long as the innovation is novel, creative, and industrially applicable. Nevertheless, patents cannot be granted to inventions that violate the public order or morality.

Latest developments

In 2020, Lebanon was the first Arab country to legalise the cultivation of the cannabis plant for medical and industrial use. It was achieved in response to the McKinsey & Company “Lebanon Economic Vision” report estimating that cannabis cultivation in Lebanon is to generate up to one billion United States Dollars per year in government revenue, thus boosting the Lebanese economy via exports and foreign currency injections.

Since late 2019, the economic situation in Lebanon has been significantly deteriorating with the Lebanese Pound losing more than 80% of its value with respect to the United States Dollar. This significantly hit farmers, as the cost of imported fertilizers and agricultural products for plantations have spiked, while growers still have to sell their harvest in Lebanese Pounds. Where the crop used to provide growers with a reliable income to rely on, its profitability in today’s circumstances is not the same anymore.

Portrait of Malek Takieddine
Malek Takieddine
Partner at Al Jad in association with CMS
Dubai