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Should Marijuana be legalized in Nigeria?

Should Marijuana be legalized in Nigeria?

By Tola Gbadamosi
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The economic importance of marijuana cannot be quantified, but it is illegal to take or engage in the buying and selling of this product in Nigeria. Many engaged in the illicit business because it is lucrative. From the North to South, Marijuana farms adorned the land. However, controversy ranges on whether to take or not to take this product in the country, yet many openly and secretly indulged in the business of marijuana on the daily basis.

Ogbese in Akure North Local Government area of Ondo State is in the world map of one of the towns producing marijuana. Reason, many troop to the town to either plant or buy from the marijuana farmers and later sell for profit.

In the words of Michael Ohiosumua, who was recently apprehended by men of Ondo State National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), for engaging in the business of marijuana, he says, “Life is far better for me when I was into ‘Igbo’ business. In fact, I was a silent millionaire. Only if the government will legalise the business in the country, the business will boom and the risk factors would be no more”.

Ohiosumua, a drug baron and an ex-convict said despite being in the business, he abstained from smoking ‘weed’. “I never smoke marijuana, even when working in my farm, if I don’t eat well, I will have to go back home for a solid food before start working again.”

Before starting the business fully, I was trained by someone until I got my own money which I used to start the business. If I fill 10 kilograms of cannabis in a bag for my master, he pays me N15,000.

“We made huge sales, but later I got a land and I started cultivating cannabis myself. If you are in the farm, you have to eat well because the fresh leaves of cannabis is highly intoxicating.

“When I was in the business, I was the producer, cultivator and distributor of cannabis. A full blown drug baron you would call me (smiling). I was in cool cash, because a trip as far back as 6 years ago, would fetch me money. I would compress a cement bag with 10kilograms of cannabis, load 20 to 30 bags in a car and distributed to customers around the country.”

He disclosed that a bag of 10kilograms of cannabis cost N50, 000, but by the time it gets to Abuja or Port Harcourt, it was delivered for N800, 000.

Ohiosumua disclosed that his routes were Abuja and Port Harcourt, and he normally got armed men on contract basis to escort him during his trips.

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“The escorts are to protect me and the goods to the point of delivery. I have groups of people across the country, who are my buyers. Some I never met, but got contacted on phone and when I delivered their goods, payment made to me immediately and we departed our ways until our next contact.”

The drug baron told The Hope that the day he took the decision to back out of the business was the day he was intercepted and arrested by the men of the Nigeria Drug Laws Enforcement Agencies (NDLEA).

“I was apprehended for my stubbornness. I wanted to go for the last business and stop doing it, but my last trip landed me in problem.”

He said that men of NDLEA had been torn in his flesh and many times in the course of the business exchanged gun duels with his men.

“But this particular day, it was in another dimension. It was a battle field as men of the NDLEA and my men engaged in gun battle and one of my men was gunned down and he died immediately. I was lucky as my men smuggled me out of the battle field.

“I was later arrested and sentenced to jail. My mother went through stress while in prison and all the money I made went down the drain. Today I am a humble person, a driver trying to make ends meet. Now I am contended with what I have.”

The war against marijuana has been on for years in Ondo State which has become a constant trend. The huge farms for the product are in Ogbese, Irele, Ute and Igbara Oke.

 Speaking on the mental effect of cannabis to man, Dr Akinwumi Akinnoye who is a Consultant Psychiatrist and the Chief Medical Director of Psychiatrist Hospital, Akure explained excessively on the issue saying” Marijuana has come under different names in different societies by the users which are Igbo, Ganja, La-la and Weed. But the scientific name is called Cannabis which is recognised by scientists.

“When we talk about psycho, we means the Brain. And active we mean activities. This is one of the substances that have significant activities in the brain.

“It would rather be psychoactive substance, which is substance that is so active, and potential to cause damage to the brain. There is a robust relationship between cannabis user and mentally healthy relationship. And like we know, the brain is responsible for a number of functions in the human body, which includes the way you generally function.

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“Such as the way you walk, sit and talk, they can come down with hearing voice kill, walking without any aim. Over grown hair, poor grooming.

When there is such damage of Cannabis or any other potential damage substances in the brain, depending on another factor we call predisposition to dis-continue.

When we talk about legalising cannabis, it is a different ball game. Let’s look at cigarette for example which has lot of nicotine and also a psychoactive substance. But the damaging effect on the brain is not so pronounced.

The major concern about Nicotine which is in cigarette, is that it can cause cancer of the month, throat and longs. The risk of coming down with cancer is very high that is why the company producing it, warn  that consumers are liable to die young.

But going back to cannabis, we have robust relationship between cannabis use and mental health conditions. Now most people clamouring for legalising cannabis, are now left with a choice like we made for cigarette and alcohol. Either to ignore the potential damage to the pleasure and recreational benefits we going to get from it.

Akinnoye explained the measurements of cigarette smoker and Igbo smoker saying, “The reason for measuring alcohol and cigarette to cannabis is the risk of the mind. This is not compared with Cannabis. The effect of it could be restless, violent stripping self naked.

“While some users do not come down with such immediately, but notice significant changes in their behavior which maybe grossly psychotic syndrome hearing voices, seeing strange things, neglecting self care, grouse abnormal behavior, talking illogically.”

“We have lots of substance in weed but the major active and dangerous substance is Tetrahydrocannabinol.

“It has been legalised in some society not for recreational purposes but for medical reasons because those substances have some health benefits. Such as it reduces the perception of pain. Especially for people that are dying on terminal illness.

“Marijuana also has a compound that reduces vomiting and elevating spirit. Cannabis helps to stimulate people with terminal illness appetite.

If you ask me personally I was say no to legalisation of Cannabis. I will not encourage our government to legalise cannabis for recreational purposes.

“As some people will take it and start misbehaving.

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“Seeing mad people on the street they don’t get there in a day. It’s starts from taking it gradually, not taking care of themselves.

“People have heard it in several occasions in the community that, cannabis can make you go mad. It is a well known fact that huge percentage is still talking it.

 “You only have treatment to manage it. And you have lots of young people coming down with mental health conditions. It is unfortunate that the usage is very high and we have quite a number of people engaging in Cannabis with a mental health conditions in it in our society today.

The treatment is not only based on drugs, but we have family and social intervention.

“That is why I would advise those in it to make sure they think of the stress they will give to their family and themselves before indulging in such illicit drugs.

In an interview with the Ondo State NDLEA Commander, Mr. Haruna Dagara, he said that the agency will fight cannabis farmers with all strength and those apprehended will be sentenced to jail.

“The law is clear about this issue. It is illegal to produce, cultivate, sell or distribute cannabis in the state and Nigeria at large.”

Dagara said that the talk about legalizing the product in Nigeria is unknown to the law and the agency. He said if other countries legalised the product, it has not been done in Nigeria.

He disclosed that marijuana cultivation cannot boost the economy of Nigeria as the disadvantages are very high.

“The content level of marijuana in Nigeria is very high, our specie of cannabis can cause a lot of problems physically and health wise to people. It can increase crime rate, cause family problem.”

The NDLEA boss disclosed that youths who are into drugs business are the ones constituting problems in our society and urged them to desist from something that can cut short their future.

He said that legalizing marijuana in the country would increase high incidents of mental crisis which in turn will create social problems.

The cannabis species currently grown in Nigeria and indeed sub Saharan African cannot be legalized anywhere in the world for commercial purposes. Their tetrahycrocannabinol (THC) is in the region of 3-5 percent. The specie that has been legalized and approved for commercial and medical purposes in some limes has just 0.2 percent or so of THC

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