In a move widely celebrated by human rights activists in the country, Lebanon's state prosecutor has ordered district attorneys to refrain from detaining drug offenders and instead subject them to rehabilitation.
On Monday, Judge Samir Hammoud issued a binding circular urging the country's prosecutors to immediately transfer drug users to the Drug Addiction Committee.
Justifying his order, Hammoud cited Law 376 issued in 1998, upon which the committee was formed.
The circular obliges prosecutors to apply Law 376, which states that the latter could subject drug users to rehabilitation and gives defendants the right to request treatment during their trial.
The law also stipulates that in both cases, defendants would no longer be prosecuted if the committee confirms they have fully recovered.
Conversely, a potential state prosecution could still be resumed "if the drug user fails to follow through on his treatment," according to An-Nahar.
Hammoud emphasized that people arrested solely for drug use should not be detained, but instead referred to the committee.
"Congratulations for a huge step away from criminalization and towards securing the right to health of people who use drugs!" Skoun, Lebanese Addictions Center, wrote on Facebook.
Skoun added that the move comes as a result of its joint efforts with non-profit organizations ALEF and Soins Infirmiers et Developpement Communautaire (SIDC).
Calls for legalization
Lebanon's Druze leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt, has long been vocal about his support for the legalization of Hashish - a drug made from cannabis and also known as marijuana among other names - saying it would help struggling farmers.
"It's time to allow hash to be grown and to overturn arrest warrants against people sought for doing so," he wrote on Twitter in 2014.
Lebanon has recently witnessed some talk about decriminalization, especially during the 2018 parliamentary elections.
Drug use is a criminal offense in Lebanon
Under the current Lebanese law, drug use is a criminal offense that is punishable with a prison sentence ranging from three months to three years, plus a fine that starts at two million and can rise up to five million Lebanese Liras.
Lebanese authorities have been accused of unjust treatment of individuals who consume drugs for personal use, as they are often imprisoned without adequate evidence.
"They have a stereotype for an addict and there are suspicious places where addicts go out. If someone who fits the stereotype is found at such a place, then they are likely to be arrested," Sandy Mteirek, project coordinator at Skoun, previously told Now Media.