Lebanon's Pot Farmers Fight the Government
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Marijuana farmers in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley wielded weapons much stronger than pitchforks when government security forces threatened to destroy their crops on Monday. The government sent tractors and armored vehicles to flatten the illegal cannabis crops, but farmers retaliated with assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortars—ultimately forcing security forces to back down. There was an exchange of fire but no casualties were reported, although two security vehicles were bombarded with bullets. The Lebanese government has often tried to wipe out cannabis farms, but the farmers—many of whom rely on the lucrative crop to support their impoverished communities—are known to respond with aggressive defense tactics, most likely backed by well-funded drug traffickers. During Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, Bekaa Valley produced up to 1,000 tons of cannabis and 50 tons of opium (used to make heroin) annually, but was ultimately eradicated under a UN program in 1993. Since that effort, the valley has re-emerged—but the government will not give the growers a free pass, and are rumored to be regrouping and organizing a new plan to take down the crops.