A popular maxim says “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission.” The idea is that decisive action is better than risking delay while seeking approval.
That’s the case with advocacy for legalisation of marijuana cultivation in Nigeria currently being promoted by a section of the Nigerian elite. Just because legalisation is happening in some countries around the world is no reason for Nigeria to jump hastily on the bandwagon.
Ondo state Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu who stirred the hornet’s nest recently when he said that his state is set to tap into legal marijuana market under the supervision of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency had appealed to the Federal Government to permit his state to embark on marijuana cultivation in controlled plantations.
Governor Akeredolu premised his appeal on the fact that the product could be a huge foreign exchange earner for Nigeria and a thriving industry that is capable of providing job opportunities for the unemployed youths in the country.
As expected, the Governor Akeredolu advocacy has generated a lot of controversy in the country. But pro-advocates of marijuana cultivation are firmly behind him and have adduced reasons why the Federal government should give his proposition a listening ear.
They argue that marijuana has been found to contain medicinal value that could be of help to those who need it. They also argue that cultivation of marijuana on commercial quantities could be a veritable option for states that have arable land in shoring up their internally generated revenue earnings. They also noted that back to farm policy of the present administration as a measure to diversify the nation’s economy would have been achieved.
But the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA), Gen. Buba Marwa (rtd) sees the campaign as an uninspiring proposition that must not be contemplated.
His disapproval on the marijuana cultivation was contained in a recent press statement he issued shortly after Governor Akeredolu’s statement went viral on all media platforms.
Marwa’s warning against any plan or advocacy to legalise the growing of marijuana in the country may not be unconnected with preliminary findings at the disposal of his committee as it relates to high incidence of drug abuse in Nigeria.
We do not see any reason to rush into legalisation of marijuana cultivation in the country. Advocates of cultivation of marijuana are more interested about its potential to spin money but squelched discussions of the negative health implications associated with it.
The pro-marijuana campaigners have also recast marijuana as a medicine rather than an intoxicant. But health experts say that marijuana can cause paranoia and psychosis and these conditions are closely linked to violence.
A recent study carried out in the United States, shows that the risk of marijuana use and its use disorders increased at a significant rate in states that passed medical marijuana law than states that did not.
Our country has witnessed increased social malaise such as terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery, rape, suicide, and killings in the last couple of years and security experts are linking high incidence of criminality in the country to accessibility of hard drugs by perpetrators of these crimes who are largely the youth.
The country is yet to resolve how Codeine, a prescription cough drug became accessible to teens, university undergraduates and pregnant women resulting in high incidence of drug abuse never before recorded in Nigeria.
There is good evidence that once marijuana cultivation becomes legal more Nigerian youths will have access to it thereby aggravating the already drug abuse epidemic prevalent in the country. There is also the possibility that once it’s legalised the large illiterate population will misinterpret it to mean that marijuana is no longer harmful.
We don’t see any need to press for legal marijuana cultivation at this time in the nation’s history because of the inevitable dire consequences it would have on the youth of our country. Again, what shall it profit Nigeria if it gains billions of dollars from exportation of marijuana and expose its tomorrow leaders to harm’s way?
The back to farm policy of the present administration and efforts being made by state governments to key into it is highly commendable, but investment in marijuana cultivation in any part of the country could result in sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind.