Lebanon’s parliament voted to legalise growing marijuana for medical use on Tuesday, amid an economic crisis exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawmakers met in a 1,000 seat conference hall to maintain appropriate social distancing, while outside anti-government protesters demonstrated in a vehicle convoy.
As the country struggles with a battered economy, MPs also approved the re-allocation of $40 million from a World Bank loan to help fight COVID-19, which has officially infected 677 people and killed 21 nationwide.
Outside the venue, dozens of demonstrators sought to revive a massive anti-government protest movement that had rocked Lebanon from October, before the virus forced a nationwide shutdown.
They drove a noisy convoy of cars covered in slogans, drivers honking their horns and passengers brandishing the national flag and leaning out of the windows — while wearing face masks.
Another item on the agenda of the three-day session were proposals for a divisive general amnesty, but that motion was sent back for revision by a parliamentary committee.
“Today, instead of passing a general amnesty law… they could pass a law on the independence of the judiciary,” said Jad Assaileh, a young demonstrator.
“We want to recover the stolen money,” he said, referring to allegations that Lebanon’s ruling elite transferred billions out of the country while regular citizens were prevented from withdrawing their savings by the banks.
Similar protests took place in the cities of Sidon and Tripoli.