The Drug Lord BBC Pop Up - Lebanon


The Drug Lord

Benjamin Zand takes the BBC's mobile bureau to Lebanon. In the first of a two-part series, he explores Lebanon's cannabis trade.


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BBC Pop Up is the BBC's mobile bureau.

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We travel to different cities for a month at a time

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Lebanon is a very small country at the edge of

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Historically, these borders have meant that it's

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become a centre of many Middle Eastern conflicts, despite its small

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For centuries, it's acted as a refuge for

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We have Christians, Sunni Muslims, Shia

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It has taken in more Syrian refugees than any other country in

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the world except Turkey, with one in five people in Lebanon being a

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For two years, the country was left without a president, but

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that ended in October last year, when we elected this guy.

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So we're currently doing the BBC Pop-up story booth.

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Basically, we set up a camera in random

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locations about town, and we

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ask people what stories they want to tell.

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The best thing about Lebanon is probably, at my age, is

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What I really love about it is its diversity.

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Where ever you go, you will find people from different groups and

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religions. The majority is Christian and religion, they are probably

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about 100 Jewish people. It is very friendly. You come down to a streak

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that there is, you will see Christians and Muslims, having a

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great time together. You can either speak English or French or both.

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Actually, a lot of food came from Lebanon. Commerce, falafel, tabulate

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salad. What is the meat on mystic cold? Leben on is a mix of hostility

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and positivity, see you have angry people and positive people trying to

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do things. What would a good story be? Give me a good story. It would

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be interesting to highlight the fact that Beirut was destroyed and

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rebuilt seven times. We're not having a frank conversation among

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ourselves, we're talking about women's issues, income inequality,

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gay rights. I suggest you go to the Valley controlled by the Shia

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Muslims. They are trying to find out where the supply of hashes coming

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from. They tried to grow it. I was told that is a lot of hash each. I

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guess it does. I've never tried it. I'm not looking to get into

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something like that, but I know a lot of people do. It looks that

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there's only one story we can do then, hashish. Cannabis has been in

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Lebanon for centuries, but I quickly found most people were not keen to

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talk about it openly and camera. Punishment is just smoking can be

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harsh, so people don't want to admit they do it. Eventually, I found

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someone who had written extensively about hashish in Lebanon and he

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agreed to talk, as long as we didn't show his face. Tell me what I need

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to know about hashish in Lebanon. It's so common now across all

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classes and regions. What is the low? If it's not your first offence,

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you could get a few months or years. For dealers it is more. Some people

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charge for using, because they're one of the few people who don't

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smoke. But nobody talks about it, because it is stigmatised. A person

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who suffers from that will be ostracised. Who is making money from

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it? Everyone is making money from it. The growers, the dealers, of

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course and sadly, the people entrusted in fighting drugs are

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making a good income out of it. The only people really paying the price

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of young people. Where'd you find the dealers in the country?

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I wanted to speak to one of these growers to find out how they could

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justify a tree that is illegal and violent. During the Civil War,

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cannabis culture flourished here and I heard the Syrian war was causing

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the same problem. This is pretty much the most dangerous and lawless

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part of the country, very to Syria and it has seen Isis infiltration,

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kidnappings, bombings, not nice things. But it is famous for

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something very different and that's for having the mass of Lebanon

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hashish farms. We're going to speak to one of the drug lords. We're

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actually near Syria. Yes, Syria is right this way. If infiltration

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happens, it can happen three here, so there are a lot of checkpoints

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here. Most of the suicide bombings that happen in Beirut, everybody

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came through that way. We're currently waiting for the hashish

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farmer. He's asked us to come here, because he doesn't want us to come

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to his house, because he doesn't know who we are. It's pretty

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dangerous over there. Nice to meet you. Thank you for having us.

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Nice to have the knowledge that there is a couple of grenades in the

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back of the car. There you go. He's just handed me, is that an AK-47?

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He's passing it around. Does everyone know who you are? Are you

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the kingpin here? If we tell someone we're with you, we're safe? This is

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so you can tell someone is a drug so you can tell someone is a drug

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kingpin, his ice is about ten times bigger than anyone else in the area.

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If we leaked this guy off, it's game over. Do you have kids? That's a lot

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of lobbying going on. You've got a golden pistol. Is it loaded right

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now? He's just pulled out a machine gun and a bazooka. Is that a

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bazooka? What do you use the bazooka for? You've use this against Isis?

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Ali told us that recently, the so-called Islamic State infiltrated

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the nearby village. He said as soon as he heard about it, he jumped on a

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truck and picked up weapons with some of the other hashish farmers,

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and according to him, they fought them off. Because they are

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distracted with Isis, they are distracted with the threat of the

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threat of Syria. Have you actually fired this?

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Is this where the magic happens? Why did you choose black and red?

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You've got good taste. It seems that everybody is your enemy, because

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Hezbollah don't want you to do this, the government don't want you to,

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Isis. Who is on your side? What do you want your legacy to be?

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Do you want to be really famous? Do you want everyone to know who you

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are you did? He is giving me a tour. Here we go.

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While. Mountains of hashish. Hashish is illegal in Lebanon. How

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can you be so open about it? Have you had to actually fight

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against the government to protect crops?

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There's just hashish everywhere, were soaked in it. How much do you

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make? Who is buying this hashish? How did you get hashish from here to

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Europe? It's difficult to very tight Ali's claims about the government,

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but Lebanon is thought to have big problems with corruption. You remind

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me a bit of someone like Pablo Escobar. You happy to appear on

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camera. Have you actually been convicted by

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the government of anything in court? How does that feel, to be sentenced

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to death. You have a hashish farm, you have killed a lot of people. Do

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you not deserve to go to jail? If you run this country, would you

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legalise hashish? You seem like a difficult man to pin down, because

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on the one hand, ECU for this to try and make money for the people in the

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area, but then you also kill people and you are dealing in an illegal

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trade. Do you think you could have done it another way that wasn't

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illegal? Do you think I'll get into trouble

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with the police because I have hashish leaves on my shoes and on my

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clogs? That was a weird day. Ali was either

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really friendly uncle who foot so happens to be a killer and a drug

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dealer. And he was massively open about it. Back to Beirut now. I'm a

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bit concerned, because we've all got hashish all over us and if they find

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you, you get in serious trouble and get put in jail. Were going to try

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dust ourselves off. There are checkpoints all the way back. Highly

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is quoted as out of his village, as he said it was unsafe to do

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otherwise. Then we headed back to Beirut. Despite being covered in

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layers of hashish from Ali's factory, we headed straight to the

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police office. I wanted to know how Ali could be so open about this

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without getting into trouble with the authorities. People speaking to

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hear tell me the police too quick to punish the small-time consumers and

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are too reluctant to punish the big-time growers in the country.

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I've arranged to meet the head of drug enforcement here to see if he

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agrees. English? BBC. Yes. I'm not purposely as close to you in the

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lift. Where are we going now? What is in these things? Hashish. Do

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you consider hashish as bad as heroin? Hashish is the most

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dangerous drugs for the human being. How many people do you arrest each

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year for hashish? Thousands of people, hundreds a year. 2000, 3000

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during a year. I can put you in jail for three years. Three years for

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hashish? Yes, all the boxes, we have drugs. We have big agriculture for

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thousands square of land for hashish. You know about that? We

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went to a farm to see. All, you went to a farm? That was one of the most

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amazing things was seeing a hashish farmer who was willing to go on

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camera and talk about it. Is it not illegal to grow? Yes, it's not

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legal. How did he get away with growing hashish and talking about

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it? Since the war in Syria, our government took the decision to send

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us and destroy the hashish. So you can tackle these guys because of the

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war in Syria and resources are elsewhere? Our ability is not

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enough, because most of the guys there have maybe weapons more than

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the police. When we went to the spartan, the guy was kind of taking

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out all the weapons he has, boasting that the government can never touch.

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If I have 100 soldiers, I can go and put him like a mouse, OK? On the one

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hand, you have these kind of drug dealers and hashish farmers, who can

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get away with it and talk openly on TV about growing hashish, but then

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you have people who are small-time consumers, who are scared to even

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talk about smoking it. How has it got to this point? It's a good

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question. It's something to make ourselves upset. We are interested

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to get the drugs dealer and put in jail for hundreds of years. What we

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do with addicts and drug users, like sick people. One argument he would

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users there's nothing else for him to farm but hashish. He has a liar.

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They try to make that Beagle, because they benefit to make the

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hashish legal. It's war between the good guy and the bad guy. Would it

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not make society safer in a way, because you wouldn't need drug

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lords, the government could control hashish farming? Yes, I cannot

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expect one day that hashish will be legal. It's clear that the war in

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Syria has had a huge effect, but it doesn't mean they have stopped

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arresting people for smoking hashish. This man was in jail for a

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hashish conviction. It was overturned, but it changes like the

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good. I was a straight-A student, but my life was put on hold, because

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I was sent to prison for smoking. They got me, I went to the station.

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They put the only torture device, where they handcuff you and your

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upside down. I was 19 at the time. How long are you in prison for? I

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was in prison for a year and three months. Did they find hashish on

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you? There was no evidence. The arrested Ewing said you would a drug

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dealer, basically. Did you deal in drugs? Not at all, I don't be too.

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What was the worst thing that happened to you in prison? I got

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knifed. It is a horrible place. You find killers. Block B was controlled

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by Isis. The social destruction that was the hardest point about the

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experience. When you're a guy who has been to prison. Some people say

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you are doing something illegal. To me, is not illegal. What am I doing?

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Smoking and at home. It's crazy, it must read your life, you got kicked

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out of university and you're still smoking hashish. It was the

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government. Do you see yourself as a criminal? The government made me a

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criminal. I'm not sure. I'm a nice guy. I just smoke. His story shows

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just how serious the consequences can be from messing around with

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hashish. For a country with so much of it, could it ever be legal? Judy

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the country's civil War, the industry generated hundreds of

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billions of dollars. A couple of years ago, the leader of the

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Progressive party made headlines after he treated calling for

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legalisation of cannabis. Some got excited. I met with one of his party

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members to see if they still thought that way. He seemed busy, so I had

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to be quick. So you want hashish to be legalised in Lebanon on? Yes. Do

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you see that is something that will actually happen. It's not easy. They

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want people to be able to smoke it on the streets grow it freely?

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If it's legal to grow here in farm but illegal to smoke it, what's the

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point? OK, all right. Thank very much.

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It doesn't seem that marijuana is going to be legalised any time soon

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in Lebanon. What does seem possible is growing it and exporting it

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illegal, but smoking it could get you into big trouble. Some people

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say that is happening already. Do I just talk about something? OK. Is he

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a Pablo Escobar after season two or the episode where he's running for

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president? Nobody knows anything about him yet. I don't know.

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Hashish, I don't know that much about hashish. What do you know

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about hashish? I know nothing. It's very quiet on the weather front

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today, but there are some changes afoot. In fact, early next week,

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winning four and a chill,

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