Turning weed into wine in Lebanon

A cannabis field near a vineyard on the outskirts of Deir al-Ahmar in the Beakaa Valley, one of the poorest regions in Lebanon.

Sitting among the vines of Sauvignon Blanc and Tempranillo growing on his spectacular farm in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, Michel Emad remembers the not-so-distant time when he opted to cultivate cannabis.

The retired soldier was not alone in this illicit trade: cannabis fields used to stretch as far as the eye could see in this part of Lebanon over which the state has tenuous control.

"Everyone used to grow hashish, that was what the market wanted, there was no alternative crop," Emad, a father of two in his fifties with neatly trimmed hair, said.

Now he and the 220 farmers from the Coteaux Heliopolis cooperative are growing grapes for winemaking in the northern Bekaa Valley's Deir al-Ahmar region.

The area, one of the poorest in Lebanon, is notorious...

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