Nigeria’s interest in legalizing “Indian Hemp” has perked up in the face of a 25% drop in oil revenue over the past year. However, the country’s top drug chief has warned against legalization saying it will create political instability in the country.
Nigeria is a major exporter of illegal cannabis and consumes more weed than any other nation on earth.It will be one of the most lucrative cannabis markets in the world. If cannabis was to be legalized.
Nigeria’s Conflicting Cannabis Narratives
Two very different soundtracks are playing in Abuja. Senior politician Benjamin Okezie, chairman of the National Assembly, says Nigeria will soon join other countries in legalizing cannabis to create jobs, grow the economy and reduce its dependence on crude oil exports. On the other hand, Chairman and Chief Executive of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brig- Gen Mohamed Buba Marwa, has warned that legalisation would rob the country of the gains so f
ar made in the renewed war against drug abuse and trafficking.
He told a security meeting in the House of Representatives on 26 May 2021 that it was “incontrovertible” that there was a “strong nexus between drug abuse and the security challenges across the country.
“Presently, there is no bigger national issue than the issue of insecurity in Nigeria. It is one of the big challenges, if not the biggest, threatening our dear country. Insecurity is today, a full-blown malady with many manifestations such as insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, murder, robbery, reprisal killing, name it…”
In the face of such strong words, Okezie is pushing ahead with exploring legalization options and has called for a meeting of interested parties for two days of stakeholder discussions starting on 6 June 2021 in Ondo.
At a press conference on 7 May 2021 Okezie, stressed the benefits and opportunities of the cannabis plant and lamented that the coronavirus pandemic had exposed the nation’s weaknesses in the face of plummeting oil prices.
Over 10 million Nigerians regularly consume cannabis
Cannabis stakeholder summit planned for early June
He said the stakeholders’ forum would attract participants that include scientists, medical and pharmaceutical professionals, farmers, insurance companies, executives and private sector investors.
“Agriculture has always been a major strength of Nigeria and cannabis provides interesting prospects. Industrial hemp is a variety of the cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for industrial use.
“Once harvested, the crop has a high yield of edible protein
s and fibres with more than 50,000 product applications ranging from paper making, textiles, biodegradable plastics, fuel, construction, healthy food, beverages, personal care products and pharmaceuticals,” he said.
To enable the process of legalisation, Okezie said: “I have presented before the House of Representatives the Dangerous Drugs Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which when passed, will usher in a new era on medicinal cannabis from production, processing and distribution.
“I expect that the exchanges that will ensue at the roundtable on June 7 and 8, 2021, will greatly optimise the deliberations of the National Assembly on the bill, as well as preparations by the executive arm of government to regulate the sector.”
“Nigerians must understand that we are not alone in this race to establish a lucrative medical and industrial hemp economy. Based on recommendations by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations (UN) voted to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and re-classified it as medicinal and therapeutic on December 2, 2020.
“Several countries have legalised medicinal and industrial hemp and other African countries are moving to do the same.”
But Law Enforcement says legalization will create a “nation of junkies”
Nigeria’s NDLEA is very opposed to reform. A statement issued on 27 May 2021 by NDLEA spokesman, Femi Babafemi quoted Marwa as saying that the present figure of 10.6million Nigerians abusing cannabis was frightening and enough to sound the alarm bells.
NDLEA raiding illegal cannabis fields
“Yet there has never been a government that is more committed to ending this spate of insecurity than the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. The President has matched political willpower with resources, but the scope and frequency of these acts of destabilisation and the audacity displayed by the perpetrators call for a second, critical look at the malaise. The persistence of the problem has forced on us the necessity to start to look at likely extraneous factors that might be sustaining the resistance from the criminal elements and in doing so, try to connect the dots. The permutations will lead to a list of probable causes, which will not exclude the use and abuse of illicit substances. In the final analysis, drug abuse is indeed one of the factors fueling insecurity.
“The relationship between substance abuse and crime is a fact. What is clear is that no sane human being will rise against society to commit the kind of gross atrocities as we are witnessing in recent years, except such an individual has first hardened his heart with mind-altering substances. The use of drugs for perverted purposes is not a new phenomenon, neither is it something that just started in Nigeria. There are precedents in world history.
So, beyond speculations and armchair theories, there is ample evidence, from report statistics and from empirical data from the field, to conclude that the use of illicit substances is a contributing factor to the worsening security situation in Nigeria. And if this is so, Nigeria should be the last country to consider a law to legalise marijuana in any shape or form.
Bottom of Form
“Should we have such a law, we will soon become a nation of junkies and criminals. As such, I will like to caution that our lawmakers should not legalise cannabis because it will amount to taking a step forward and ten steps backward. It will no doubt rob the nation of recent gains in the war against illicit drugs. In less than four months, we have been able to mop up over two million kilograms of illicit drugs, with over N90billion worth of illicit substances seized. Imagine if a fraction of this had found its way into our streets. We can’t be holding a national security summit and at the same time considering legalising illicit substances.”