By Olugbenga Faseluka Ph.D
Cannabis sativa is an annual herbaceous flowering plant indigenous to Eastern Asia but now of widespread cultivation. It has been cultivated throughout recorded history, used as a source of industrial fiber, seed oil, food, nutritional supplement, recreation, religious and spiritual mood, body care and medicine-Wikipedia. It is native to India and Persia, but has been cultivated in virtually all temperate and tropical countries of the world (Navilor and Doroveyev (1906).
The Plant is also known as hemp, marijuana at international level and bears various names in local or domestic parlance. In Nigeria, it is called gbana, igbo, efo, weed etc.
This remarkable plant contains many valuable natural components (seed, stem, leaf) from which many products are extracted and manufactured.
The fibre is used for rope, cordage, fabric and papers.
Oil is extracted from the seed for production of soap,paint, lubricant and cosmetics.
Cannabis has therapeutic and medicinal values. It is a schedule 1 drug in the United States of America but accepted in 16 States and the District of Columbia for medicinal purposes.
Apart from its long historical presence, hemp had been cultivated widely and largely across the world because of its resilience.
Its many attributes made cannabis a famous plant globally. Above all, cannabis has great economic value. Its returns is in millions of dollars.
However, cannabis sativa appear to be more known, notorious and defined for its abuse. It is top rate on the list of abused plants such that by the 20th century, the production of hemp had been made illegal in most countries.
The abuse of the plant manifests in smoking of raps of its dried leaves and buds and outright cooking and consumption like vegetable.
Cannabis contains the chemical compound THC (delta-a tetrahydrocannabinol) which produces psychoactive effects that leads to the “high” when it is consumed.
The effects of abuse of cannabis (marijuana) include:
- hyperactivity – feeling high, extreme happiness or euphoria, uninhibited;
- social interaction – feeling more sensitive to things around, more vivid sense of taste, sight smell and hearing;
- paranoia – anxiety, panic and unnecessary fear.
Abuse of marijuana has resulted in social problems of insanity and emotional imbalance particularly among the youth. Lives had been destroyed thereby.
The effect of the negative aspect of the use of cannabis had conflagrated and hyped a worldwide campaign against its production, distribution and possession. So many countries including Nigeria have legislated against its cultivation and use.
The so many benefits of cannabis will appear to have been thrown away with the bathwater of its finite iniquities.
21st CENTURY REALITIES.
The turn of the 21st century will appear to be an era of rethink on striking an equilibrium between the good and ugly sides of cannabis.
In 2013, URUGUAY’s legislature approved a sweeping measure that would allow the government to regulate the production and distribution of marijuana in the Latin American Country (The Punch Newspaper of August 3, 2013 at P.47).
Uruguay became the first country in the world to create a legal marijuana market, all 50 members of the country’s rulling Broad Party approved. Front Hetzer, a Latin American coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance who lived in Uruguay at the time said:
In a regional context, the Uruguay Vote echoed calls from presidents for a change in drug policy.
This measure was an effort to put a halt on what Uruguayans saw as a wave of crime related with marijuana.
The measure allowed people to grow up to six marijuana stands in their homes and cooperatives to cultivate up to 99 plants, a model widely in use in Spain.
The Law also allows private companies to grow marijuana, which will be sold in Licensed Pharmacies.
Furthermore, to avoid making the country a marijuana tourist destination, only Uruguayans are allowed to purchase and use cannabis under measure, which limits purchase at 45 grams per individual.
The Uruguay initiative underscored clamours by former and sitting presidents for global re-think on the war on drugs, a prohibitionist model established about 50 years ago, when Richard Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Administration in the USA.
In 2009, former Presidents of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico urged President Barak Obama to consider new policies in the drug war, ones that treat drug use as a public heath concern.
In 2012, then Guatemalan President Otto Perez Olina proposed drug legalization in front of UN General Assembly, a call that was supported by former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and Colobian president Juan Mannuel Santos, who also called for a global debate on the war on drugs.
In May 2013, the organistion of American States OAS, released a Report calling on global leaders to re-examine the war on drugs.
The US state of Colorado in 2014, became the first state to allow stores sell cannabis (BBC reports).
As many as 30 stores around the State commenced sale of the drug for recreational purposes from January 1, 2014 ( The Punch Newspapers of January 2, 2014 at P. 52). It was dubbed Green Wednesday.
Colorado, along with Washington State, voted and legalised the use and possession of cannabis for people over the age of 21 in November 2012.
Colorado and Washington are among the 20 States to have approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Under the Law, cannabis is sold like alcohol. Residents will be able to buy up to one ounce, while those from out of the State can purchase up to a quarter of an ounce.
Cannabis can only be smoked on private premises, with the permission of the owners. The sale of the drug will be taxed like alcohol, and State Official have said that they expect to raise millions of dollars in revenue.
As at 2014, a total of 136 stores had been licensed to sell marijuana.
Nigeria observes and operates the 20th century global war on drugs and narcotics. The item falls under the exclusive legislative list of the Federal Government.
There exists a Federal Law prohibiting outrightly the cultivation, distribution and use of cannabis and marijuana, along with others.
There is a National Drug law Enforcement Agency NDLEA which handles enforcement of the legislation.
In September 2013, the Ondo State Command of the NDLEA said it confiscated a total of 148,594.9 kg of cannabis sativa, popularly known as marijuana between 2010 and 2013. (The Punch Newspaper of September 22, 2013)
Spokesman of the Agency, Peter Archibong stated that a total a 523.2 hectares of cannabis frams was destroyed between 2011 and 2013 adding that 129, 853.62kg of exhibits were destroyed between 2011 and 2012.
The NDLEA further stated that it secured convictions of 129 persons in the courts between 2009 and 2013.
The Agency further stated that it lost two of its officers to the anti-drug battle.
In Ekiti state, the NDLEA said it destroyed 680 acres of cannabis farms in Ode forest, Gboyin Local Local Government Area in November 2013. (The Punch Newspaper of November, 2013 at p.5). The Agency claimed to have jailed four persons in connection with the drug fight. Similar newspaper headlines report such stories in virtually every state in Nigeria indicating the prevalence of cultivation and of course use of hemp.
In 2019, the Governor of Ondo State, Mr Odunayo Akeredolu called for a review of anti-drug legislation in Nigeria with a view to aligning the domestic posture on drug battle with contemporary global realities.
Akeredolu became the first Governor in Nigeria to have taken the bull by its horns on the drug issue. He has gone ahead to visit other jurisdictions notably the USA and Canada for an on-the- spot assessment of current global realities. The Governor of Ondo State is of the persuasion that the economic and medical benefits of Cannabis sativa far outweigh its negative scores.
He has strongly canvassed a review of legislation and related frameworks to align our national posturing on zero drug production and distribution with World’s global imperatives of the 21st century.
BILL FOR LEGISLATION IN NIGERIA
In January 2021, a Nigeria newspaper reported that a bill to legalise cultivation of cannabis in Nigeria has passed the stage of second reading in the House of Representatives. The bill which was sponsored by Princess Miriam Onuoha, the lawmaker representing Okigwe North Federal Constituency of Imo State categorically stated that Nigeria has a lot to gain economically if the bill is enacted into law.
THE WAY FORWARD
There was no doubting the fact that it entails real gut to canvass support for the review of anti-drug law moreso in our type of complacent society where dynamics of social change are badly challenged by conservation, pretence and religiosity.
The fact however is that progress must be made.
It is a reality that the cultivation and use of cannabis keep rising in Nigeria despite the extancy of anti-drug legislation and the efforts of drug law enforcement agents and other security agencies.
Outright prohibition ha failed. The medicinal and economic advantages of the plant dictates that Nigeria moves from prohibition to regulation as being done in other Jurisdictions moreso that the manifest abuses and social harm which must have informed the 2oth century ban can be better taken care of by appropriate regulation and diligent enforcement of standards.
Dr. Faseluka, a farmer is the Chairman of International Peterside Cacao Nig Ltd,