Why I am supporting cannabis
OpenLife Nigeria reports that the legion of advocacy for the legalization of cannabis in Nigeria is growing astronomically.
Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a psychoactive drug from the Cannabis plant used primarily for medical and recreational purposes.
The Dangerous Drugs Act, 1935 (the “DDA”) is the first notable legislation against cultivation, trafficking and use of cannabis in Nigeria.
Nigerian cannabis laws are tough. There are no official hemp industries even though the plant is grown widely across the country.
The Indian Hemp Act further clarifies the situation – stating that possession of the substance is an offence, which can be punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than four years.
However, if the offender is 17 or under, the sentence is adjusted to 21 strokes of the cane, plus two years in a borstal or similar institution, or a fine of N200.
Individuals can also be prosecuted for possessing equipment associated with the usage of cannabis (for example, a smoking pipe). If caught, they could be given a prison sentence of not less than five years.
But on assumption of office, Ondo State Governor and Chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu, alarmed the country of the monument revenue loss on account of the ban on cannabis.
He advised the government to unban the substance as a window of additional revenue drive for governments across tiers.
Akeredolu’s submission was received with mixed feeling with some calling for his impeachment while many others applauded his bold innovative idea.
Within a short period, Brigadier General Buba Marwa came into the scene as chairman, National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, a body saddled with the responsibility of ensuring cannabis is not grown or used in any part of Nigeria.
Only recently, Akeredolu resumed his persuasion, once again, saying it is important for the country to legalise the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
He spoke on a live interview programme tagged ‘Governor Speaks’, which is part of activities lined up in commemoration of his 100 days of his second term in office. Akeredolu was sworn in for a second term on February 24, 2021 after he won the October 10, 2020 governorship election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress.
Speaking during the live interview, the governor said cannabis could be a strong foreign exchange earner for Nigeria if its cultivation was legalised.
Akeredolu said, “We must find a way to legalise cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes. There is nothing wrong about it. We are only shooting ourselves in the foot. It is a foreign exchange earner for people outside the country. People want this. We ourselves, even our pharmacies want to develop…
“I travelled out of here and I was in Thailand trying to study the cultivation of cannabis for pharmaceutical use. We did all these, we even went there with NDLEA (National Drug Law Enforcement Agency), the chairman at that time went with us, maybe he came and said what he went for was for a different thing but that was why we went and all I felt that let us look at the way they did it over there.
“Everybody has drug problem, most country has drug problem. We are having it here, it is not as pronounced here as in other places but there are ways they went about these things that those who are involved in drugs, those who are selling, those who are exporting had other ways of doing things that they had to leave it. So, when we talk about cultivation, we are saying in which it is a monitored one, in which NDLEA will have an office (near farms).”
Earlier, on January 7, 2021, the House of Representatives proposed legalisation of cultivation and trading in cannabis for medical and cosmetic use, research purposes as well as revenue generation for Nigeria.
The Cannabis Control Bill 2020, sponsored by Miriam Onuoha, is awaiting second reading but the bill has been met with stiff criticisms and opposition.
The legislation is titled, ‘A Bill for an Act to Regulate the Cultivation, Possession, Availability and Trade of Cannabis for Medical and Research Use, and Related Purposes.’
Cannabis cultivation and sale are presently outlawed in the country.
If the bill becomes law, hospitals and doctors will be allowed to prescribe doses of cannabis for treatment of patients, while pharmacies and stores will be allowed to sell the drug.
Adding his voice, Mr. Babatunde Ruwase, past President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, said he believes in cannabis and urged government to review its stand on the ban of the substance.
In an exclusive interview with OpenLife on Friday in Lagos, the Fellow, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, stated that the “Benefits are numerous.”
He added that government is losing much revenue from that untapped economic haven stressing that “If it is legalized, it will be okay.”
Ruwase emphasized that pharmaceuticals and other industries would benefit bountifully if cannabis is legalized.