• Cannabis farmers in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley say they will fight IS militants if there's an incursion into their area. (SBS)
EXCLUSIVE: They are unlikely first responders to Islamic militants, but heavily armed cannabis farmers who once fought against the Lebanese army are now turning their weapons elsewhere.
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27 Oct 2014 - 4:08 PM  UPDATED 27 Oct 2014 - 4:57 PM

It's the end of a plentiful harvest for 65-year-old farmer Abo Hamoudi.

"There's nothing but this land that can give us products," he says.

"We don't have anything else. We don't have jobs and our country is poor. We grow this for our livelihood."

"[The military is] distracted with Islamic State and are fighting on the border. And we also fight with the army. In two days my turn to fight will come on the border between here and Syria. We fight them on the border so they don't come inside here."

But Mr Hamoudi is growing an illicit crop.

He produces hashish from the cannabis plant on his one-hectare farm in the Bekaa Valley in east Lebanon.

It's illegal to grow or sell cannabis in Lebanon, but it's the only life Mr Hamoudi has ever known.

"Growing up, I saw my parents planting it so we continued to grow it. Not just us, all of the Bekaa grows it too," he says.

Mr Hamoudi is from Lebanon's fertile Bekaa Valley near the border with Syria.

Local clans in this impoverished area have taken the law into their own hands.

In the past, the Lebanese army would descend yearly on this area to destroy the illicit crop, leading to heavy clashes with cannabis farmers.

Mr Hamoudi says for the last two years, the army has looked the other way.

"They're distracted with Islamic State and are fighting on the border. And we also fight with the army. In two days my turn to fight will come on the border between here and Syria. We fight them on the border so they don't come inside here."

Marijuana growers say they'll be the country's first line of defence against any Islamic State or Jabhat al Nusra militants coming across the border from Syria which lies about 40 kilometres from Bekaa Valley.

Abo Hamoudi says he's well prepared to fight off an insurgency.

A man with a mission to protect his cannabis crops (SBS)

"I'll burn a tank if I hit it with it. If I hit a pick-up with Islamic State people in it, it will burn. If I hit any vehicle with Islamic State in it, I'll burn it."

Lebanon's Chief of Drugs Enforcement, Colonel Chassan Chamseddine admits its armpower has been stretched to the limit, and that the cannabis farmers can be useful - despite their illegal harvesting activities.

"I think they're using Islamic State militants as an excuse to justify having weapons but the real reason is to protect their hashish," he says.

"But of course if there's any assault from outside of Lebanon into Lebanon they may use their weapons to help the army. But the Lebanese army has the official duty to defend the people."