By Sunny Ikhioya
The inspiration for this piece comes from the CNN Julie Chatterley show, aired between 2 pm and 3 pm on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. It was titled, “Politics of cannabis”. They discussed whether states should be free to decide on the question of legalisation of cannabis or not. As at the last count, 30 states in the United States of America, have given their approval for the use of marijuana. Some countries in Europe such as The Netherlands had done so in the past.
The subject of marijuana – cannabis, Indian hemp – is a controversial one. According to Donald Gardenier and others in Nurses Practitioners, “the landscape is changing fast….marijuana has well documented therapeutic effects, just as well documented are its recreational use and, therefore, it’s diversion and abuse potential. It is a drug after all, and like all drugs, it comes with risks and benefits that we must help our patients weigh to see if therapy with marijuana is likely to help them.”
The question is: Where do our doctors and researchers stand in all of these, seeing that our country is a very fertile ground for producing marijuana? Have they researched the Nigerian space? Does marijuana possess any health benefits? What about the economic value? Can it be legalised and put under control just as you control the use of such drugs as Lexotan? What about its potential as raw material for other approved finished products? Is there sufficient education on its use and effects?
How many of the marijuana users in Nigeria know about the consequences of its use? As psychological foundation 100 level class students in the early eighties, we were taught that there were no scientific proofs that marijuana is dangerous to human health, but like all other drugs, if abused, could be dangerous to health. What are our Nigerian researchers doing? Why are we afraid of researching controversial subjects? Can’t we think on our own?
We have cultured ourselves, in this part of the world, to regard the White man’s word as the truth. Is everything that the White man says truly what it is? The Western world has started glorifying homosexuality, even though it is a total taboo in our culture; very soon some of us will start giving their stamp to it. If we are afraid to research and find out the truth about life, we will continue to wallow in ignorance and as a result, suffer the consequences.
Why are we afraid of the truth? Very soon, because the USA has now legalised the use of marijuana in their society, the hemp consumers in Nigeria will be carrying placards, demanding for same rights and treatment. But, why won’t they? After all, we do not know why certain things are classified as illegal or legal in Nigeria. Interestingly, the Ondo State government has indicated interest to explore the benefits in marijuana production.
According to reports The governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, said the state is ready to tap into the legal marijuana market under the supervision of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA. “We all know that Ondo State is the hotbed of cannabis cultivation in Nigeria. We know how to grow it and it thrives well in the Sunshine State…With an estimated value of $145 billion in 2025, we would be shortchanging ourselves if we failed to tap into the Legal Marijuana Market,” Akeredolu was quoted as saying.
It is good that the governor has given notice to the NDLEA, because, when the NDLEA wants the world to know that it is working, the agency will impound pick-up loads of marijuana from one rural area in either Ondo, Edo or Delta states. They would then go to the press and to thump their chest for effectively fighting the war against an illicit drug. However, when you look deeply into the matter, you will realise that they are only chasing shadows; the big drugs and their dealers easily bypass their scrutiny.
If marijuana possesses medicinal, recreational and economic values to us, we must look into it and ensure that the nation benefits maximally from its production. It is a vital raw material for drugs that we import and consume daily. Centres should be created for their control and standardisation, where necessary, while their export to countries that require them should be facilitated.
Our overdependence on oil has totally blinded us to the reality of other alternative sources of income in this country. There are some countries whose incomes depend solely on the export of such drugs as opium and cannabis. We must not throw our own baby away with the bath water. NDLEA should concentrate on other drugs classified as very dangerous, that are being imported into the country on a daily basis and not use marijuana seizure to demonstrate to us that they are working.
We must rethink and rejig the processes in our local productions, it is not always that what is foreign is better. A similar situation applies in the area of local refining of crude oil. We have recommended several times in the past that the locally produced fuel should be subjected to standardised test by the people in authority, in this case, the NNPC; and when and where they fall short, the people should be properly guided to do it right, not go about total destruction. This is because it would be difficult to eliminate local refineries; as you destroy them today, they come back tomorrow. We are only making certain categories of people to get rich illegally.
A law that is not totally accepted by the people can never work; and that is why such locally produced fuel, spirit and marijuana can never be extinguished by fiat or force. Let no one is deceived, a large percentage of diesel, petrol and kerosene in use in the Niger Delta region are locally manufactured because the supplies from the NNPC cannot meet demand.
As in the agricultural sector, we should establish centres where these local products can be assessed, preserved and stored. From there, they will be shipped for export, after we have taken out what can be used locally. The risk of doing the business will be reduced because there will be safety guidelines, with the government regulating the industry and generating good revenue for capital projects. The people will be gainfully employed and everyone will be happy.
That is the advantage that a country derives from encouraging local production, and this will also reduce crime in our society. The planting, manufacturing and trading on marijuana and its by-products can be controlled to benefit the nation greatly; same as our local petroleum refineries and spirits/alcohol producers. The authorities must look into it.