By Gabriel Ewepu
FOLLOWING debates over official acceptance of marijuana cultivation, processing, utilization, exportation and profitability in Nigeria, an agricultural economist and Chairman of SWEER Global Farms, Dr Thaddaeus Thompson, Monday, expressed worry and warned that legalization of marijuana will portend danger for the nation’s health and must be avoided.
Speaking with Vanguard in a telephone chat, Thompson said the nation is not developed for such mega health risk, because legalisation of marijuana is not good for Nigeria in all ramifications.
He said his concern for legalization of marijuana in Nigeria is about the large young population of the country, because they are the only quality human asset that really needs protection as far as they are leaders of the country’s future.
He further objected that this move for profitability under the guise of generating high tax revenues, job creation, and to earn foreign exchange through exportation will definitely backfire, and it will become an enormous health challenge that might consume the entire nation in few years after it becomes legal for people to consume the substance in any form.
He said: “Legalising marijuana in Nigeria will not increase the consumption of the drug, rather it will help the government tax marijuana growers, who have evaded taxes because they were forced to operate underground.
“Legalising marijuana could decrease the use of other illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin, which are more fatal to consumers than marijuana is.
“The health impact cannot be overlooked, given that there is a higher tendency of a sharp increase in consumption, especially when the government fails to ban advertising of the crop.
“An increase in consumption will impact the already exhausted healthcare system and create a new set of mental illness patients in the country.
“According to research, the severity of long-term marijuana use depends in large part on the age of the user and the potency of the marijuana being used.
“The younger someone is when they start using marijuana and the greater the THC potency, the worse the consequences.
“There are countless professional studies on the use of marijuana that raise medical concerns, yet healthcare professionals around the globe have had no success in overriding the lobbying power from economic gains that legalizing marijuana brings.”
He (Thompson) also cautioned that if marijuana processing, production profitability, and consumption becomes legal the poor Nigerian health sector would not be able to contain the consequential gravity legalizing the ‘weed’ will throw up.
“With this temptation, many governments are vying for financial gains rather than the welfare of citizens, particular the younger generation.
“With the absence of a standard healthcare system in Nigeria, legalizing marijuana will create a free fall and thrust the country into the position of world’s leading country in freelance mental patients, overtaking Jamaica as the leading mental illness nation.
However, he added that, “To reduce the inevitable calamity of legalizing marijuana in Nigeria, producers must be subjected to strict government regulations that protect the interest of citizens”, he said.