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Powerful Nigerian Governor Backs Supreme Court Bid to Legalize Medicinal Cannabis

Cannabis reform in Nigeria has received a significant boost with the backing of the Ondo State Governor who has agreed to sponsor a supreme court challenge to decriminalize medicinal marijuana. 

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu has long supported cannabis reform, calling for the Nigerian Federal Government to recognize the economic potential and health benefits of cannabis.

 

Nigerians consume more weed than any other nation on earth!

Cannabis is currently entirely illegal in Africa’s highest populated country (an estimated 195 million). Despite this Nigerians smoke more weed than any other country in the world, according to the Global Cannabis Report. It estimates that 20% of adults over 18 have used it and that 12% of the population (20.3 million Nigerians) consume marijuana on a regular basis, spending an estimated US$15.3 billion dollars a year! 

Akeredolu’s Ondo State in western Nigeria is a major producer of illegal marijuana, and the Governor has often gone on social media to plead with the government to see the value in a regulated, legal cannabis industry. 

Last year he told Nigeria’s Business Day that Ondo was “the hotbed of cannabis cultivation,” and that the Federal Government needed to recognize this and tap into the legal marijuana market or it would be “short-changing itself”. 

He called for the federal government to throw its weight behind cannabis reform as thousands of jobs could be created and the Nigerian government would benefit from economic diversification.  His attempts to get a localized medical cannabis programme off the ground has been stymied by the government.

 

Nigerian Governor

The Governor: tired of begging for Nigerian cannabis reform: now it’s off to court to make it happen

 

Akeredolu to sponsor supreme court challenge by legal activists

The Governor has now decided that the time has come to take action, and with his sponsorship, legal activists are taking the issue to the highest court and will be serving papers on the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Attorney General, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency and the Food and Drug Administration.

On 23 December 2020 the Governor met the Association of Legislative  Drafting and Advocacy (ALDRAP) in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, to finalize an Amicus curae brief to the Nigerian Supreme Court. 

 

Nigerian Governor

Ondo is the centre of illegal cannabis production in Nigeria 

 

ALDRAP says in papers that it’s preparing:

“The brief aims to provide the Supreme Court with information on cultivation, sale, importation, exportation, and use of cannabis in Nigeria and legal and human rights standard and jurisprudence relating to: the right to life, medicinal value of cannabis; the need for the Court to review its judgment on NURA OCHELLA V FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA in Suit No. SC/728/2013 –Supreme Court-January 2016.

The present case raises questions about the relevance of Section 11(c) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act Cap N30 Laws of the Federation, 2004 and other provisions of the Act prohibiting the use of cannabis/Indian hemp in Nigeria. The case also raises question about the rationale for National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), National Agency for Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and other Agencies to continue to enforce the law against the dealing in cannabis/Indian hemp in view of the medicinal benefit of cannabis and the fact that other countries have since revised their laws and no longer enforce the use, cultivation, sale or importation of cannabis or India hemp.”

The Association argues “The right to health is one of the many human rights implicated in drug laws and policies in Nigeria. The requirement for the country to deliver, as part of the health services provided to the citizens is hampered by unauthorized and prohibition of cannabis; and as a result, the right to the highest attainable standard of health is affected.” 

“The right to health is not to be understood as a right to be healthy. The right to health contains both freedom and entitlements. The freedom includes the right to control one’s health and body and the right to be free from interference, such as the right to be free from arrest and detention for dealing in cannabis for medical treatment and experimentation.”

 

Nigerian police raid illegal cannabis farm

 

 Cannabis could be Nigeria’s ‘new oil’

Omoyele Sowore, a Nigerian human rights activist, and a former presidential candidate has also weighed in on the topic. He views cannabis as a cash crop of international value, the “new oil.” 

“No one is thinking progressively about harnessing the potentials of the plant in Nigeria”. Rather, the government, through the NDLEA, has led the waste of this economic commodity. In November we saw the annual destruction of over ₦1 billion worth of marijuana by an economy that is starved of revenue. But ₦1 billion per annum is far below the true monetary worth of Nigeria’s drug/marijuana industry. Nigeria can source as much as 30% of its annual budget from marijuana. In Edo, Ondo, Rivers, and other states that have thriving marijuana farms, the plant can generate about ₦450 billion in annual revenue”. 

 

Thailand a model for Nigeria

Akeredolu supports the Thailand legalization model. In 2019 he was invited to Thailand by  the Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Col. Muhammad Mustapha for a programme tagged, ‘Medicinal Cannabis Extract Development.’  Thailand’s government is actively encouraging a new medical marijuana industry while keeping the recreational one illegal.

 

See Thailand Develops Cannabis Tourism and Health Markets 

 

Akeredolu gets the lowdown on extraction in Thailand during his 2019 visit

 

Akeredolu said he was in the Asian country to assess the materials and best practices of medicinal cannabis planting and growing, with the possibility of replicating the technology in Nigeria.

He said, “We are here to study how cannabis can be more advantageous to the (Ondo) State and Nigeria at large, just the way Thai Government has done.

“Cannabis is used for medical purposes; how can it be cultivated for specific purposes and not be abused.

“The programme is centred around exploiting the possibility of medicinal cannabis extract development and it is aimed at building capacity and researching the modality of licensing for planting and extracting cannabis oil in Nigeria as well as exploiting its commercial potential with focus on Ondo State.”

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