Lebanese parliament reconvenes with anti-virus measures in place

The Lebanese parliament voted to pass a bill allowing cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes as protests resumed in Beirut.

al-monitor Lebanese members of Parliament attend a legislative session in a theatre hall to allow social distancing amid spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in UNESCO Palace building in Beirut, Lebanon, April 21, 2020.  Photo by REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir.

Apr 21, 2020

Lebanon’s parliament reconvened for the first time in more than a month today, but the lawmakers were not above the law when it came to anti-coronavirus measures.

The members of parliament met in a Beirut theater where they observed social distancing and were sprayed with disinfectant by medics, according to The Associated Press. Laws on corruption and public funds are on the agenda, and the parliament voted to allow the planting of cannabis for medical use, AP reported. Parliament stopped meeting in March as the country instituted measures to curb the transmission of COVID-19.

Massive protests in Lebanon began in October against sectarianism, corruption and the country’s dire economic situation. The country defaulted on its more than $1 billion debt in March for the first time.

The protests have dwindled since a curfew was put in place in March to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Security forces destroyed protest tents in Beirut at the time. The demonstrators stayed active, however, holding virtual meetings.

The protesters returned to the streets of the capital as parliament convened today, protesting in cars and waving Lebanese flags — some demonstrators wore protective gear, according to Lebanese media.

The country hopes that the cultivation of cannabis will help improve its dire economic situation. The minister of agriculture told Al-Monitor last month that the government would study how best to cultivate the plant after the passing of the bill. Cannabis produces the drug marijuana, which has both medical and recreational uses; the Lebanese government wants to produce the drug for the former.

As of today, Lebanon had 677 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 21 deaths, according to Health Ministry statistics.

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