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Ayman Sharrouf

Government: we’ll give you Michel Samaha; you give us legalized cannabis

Letting Michel Samaha walk means legalizing crime. Legalizing cannabis means fighting crime. All this country needs is tranquility.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Christian Lebanese Politician Michel Samaha in Beirut in 2003. (AFP photo)

Two days ago, the Lebanese people learned that the sentence for transporting explosives and posing a real threat to the so-called ‘coexistence’ is much less than the sentence for trafficking cannabis. The difference is that the former minister would have killed a lot of people, while the latter would put  smiles on the faces of people who have become sick and tired of successive individual, collective, personal and national frustration.

 

Some say it is unfair to compare the two. This is of course the opinion of the axis of refusal [Iran, Syria and Hezbollah], for which Michel Samaha has been and will continue to be a national hero. Even watching the video footage of Samaha eating and smiling while talking about transporting explosives—as if he was talking about picking up his kid from school—will not change the minds of many. They will just go from saying that Samaha is innocent and that the charges were fabricated to saying that he was plotting to target collaborators who sought to harm the resistance and the axis of refusal, the cornerstone of which is Bashar al-Assad.

 

The Lebanese divide has widened far beyond the notions of the state and statelet. Michel Samaha’s releas—in a way that is even more degrading to the minds of the Lebanese than it is to the so-called ‘military tribunal’—begs a question about the effectiveness of the battle for the state against the statelet.

 

The sentence against Samaha, who will soon be free to join his larger axis of refusal family, calls for a quick and effective shift in the drafting of the pro-state rhetoric that will be required during the upcoming phase, especially that the statelet is now at the heart of the Lebanese state and controlling every aspect of it. Any talk about institutions and the like is a just form of anesthesia that would justify those encroaching upon the state rather than enable those calling for the rule of the state (or seeming to do so) to achieve their demands.

 

Samaha walking like this means that Hezbollah, its team and affiliates are in control even without having an actual presence in any institution. Its intimidation tactics have become a syndrome. Hezbollah was successful with March 14 and tamed it on more than one occasion. There’s no reason to believe it won’t be successful with people within institutions that themselves are just smaller parts of a larger project that March 14 pretended to uphold. The positions of employees in any institution, even if they don’t belong to this alliance of arms, are not free to confront the alliance and can only adopt a compromise approach. This was probably the case with the person in charge of Samaha’s file, as it was before with Fayiz Karam, and as it will be with others in the future. This is a fact.

 

The lenient sentence—or non-sentence—on Michel Samaha, a man guilty of a crime against national security, forces one to approach the actual state of affairs in a rational way. Instead of seeking unrealistic demands to reform the judiciary and cancel the military tribunal and other dreams that Hezbollah adjusts according to its own timing, the battle now should be one that engages the entire social specturm in in Lebanon, away from politics. It could eventually lead to changing the political elite. It might be successful, but even if it’s not, it will at least take the country from one place to another. Let it be a battle whose title is legalizing the cultivation of cannabis. Since sentencing a criminal of Samaha’s caliber is a much lighter affair than sentencing a hashish dealer, the following is only logical: clearing Samaha entails clearing the dealer, and clearing the dealer means legalizing cannabis. It won’t be an easy battle, but it is more realistic than the bigger battles that end with compromises at the expense of the same principles they were meant to defend.

 

Samaha transported enough explosives to kill hundreds of people. A hashish dealer transports what can make hundreds of people happy. Samaha transports fear; a dealer transports happiness. Samaha transports dominion and terror, a dealer transports something people can use to take their minds off their conditions and animosities, so they no longer care about details that incite hatred and disagreement. Samaha transports portable explosions, while a dealer carries better living conditions for thousands of marginalized people in the Bekaa who are not recognized by either the state or the statelet. The state has forgotten all about them, while the statelet is exploiting their lives and the lives of their children.

 

After all the failed attempts to establish the state, the conviction lies now in the impossibility of such an outcome. Legalizing the cultivation of cannabis would contribute to reviving a collapsing economy and would contain a tension that has been ongoing for years. Letting Michel Samaha walk means legalizing crime. Legalizing cannabis means fighting crime. All this country needs is tranquility.

 

The insolent sentence again Samaha, a terrorist, will only bring about more institutional failure and fuel conflict and division. The insolent sentence, if followed by a just sentence on cannabis dealers, could restore for the state some of what it lost in social and economic setbacks. It is no longer shameful to demand the legalization of the cultivation of cannabis. On the contrary, demanding kif [stoned euphoria] in the face of our many forms of death has become the pinnacle of reason. Now is the time for the battle—which MP Walid Jumblatt had started somewhat—to turn into a national cause in the face of Samaha and his lords. What could be more worthy in a country such as this?

 

Ali Ammar shouts: the resistance ends if the Koran ends. The Lebanese take a puff on a joint and smile. Michel Aoun comes out to threaten us with the end of the state if a president is not elected. The news passes quietly, because no one cares. Ahmad al-Assir returns to the scene, only to find that no one is standing beside him. Khalid al-Dahir declares his prophethood, and the mood goes beyond, well beyond, kif. Hasan Nasrallah says that the resistance protects Lebanon. Everyone applauds him and laughs. He concludes his speech; a man asks another, ‘What was he talking about? Who is this guy?’

 

In the face of Samaha: pot circles. A hundred more people like Nouh Zaiter, and not a single Michel Samaha or anyone like him. 

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Christian Lebanese Politician Michel Samaha in Beirut in 2003. (AFP photo)

Now is the time for the battle—which MP Walid Jumblatt had started somewhat—to turn into a national cause in the face of Samaha and his lords. What could be more worthy in a country such as this?"