A Case For The Legalization/Decriminalization Of Medicinal Marijuana Consumption In Nigeria

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Marijuana

Recently, I stumbled upon an Indian Hemp Act[1] (hereafter called “The Act”) in the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. Honestly, I never knew a specific legislation had been passed for the regulation of Indian Hemp a.k.a marijuana, cannabis, weed, pot, dope, kush, kpoli, SK etc.

Marijuana

Medicinal Marijuana Consumption In Nigeria

I took particular interest in this legislation because of the ongoing efforts of the United States and some World Governments for the legalization or decriminalization of medical marijuana in their respective regions. I must say, after examining the Act, I can rightly say it is anachronistic, as it takes no cognizance of the health benefits of marijuana and the absence of a known terminal side effect of its administration.

This piece seeks to justify my view that with the information we have at our disposal, marijuana should neither be illegal nor criminal.

What is Indian Hemp?

The Act defines Indian Hemp as any plant or part of a plant of the genus cannabis, or the separated resin, whether crude or purified, obtained from any plant of the genus cannabis; or any preparation containing any such resin.

The Act bans the cultivation, importation, exportation, possession and consumption of marijuana. Contravening any of the above attracts jail time of four to twenty one years. The use of any product containing cannabis is also prohibited, so ladies you better be careful with those hair products that contain cannabis.

A question to answer is, why is marijuana dealt with in such absolutely prohibitive fashion in the Act? Does it qualify as a dangerous drug as stated in the Dangerous Drugs Act[2]?

A quick comparison of side effects of marijuana and other ‘legal’ intoxicants will shock you. A recent study conducted by 420 Magazine in America showed the average annual deaths from the use of Tobacco, Alcohol, prescription drugs etc. as follows:

Tobacco –                                435,000 deaths/year

Alcohol                                    110,000 deaths/year

Prescription Drugs                   32,000 deaths/year

Motor Vehicle Crashes             26,347 deaths/year

Aspirin                                     7,000 deaths/year

Caffeine –                                 2,000 deaths/year

Peanuts                                    100 deaths/year

Marijuana                              0

From the above figures, it is safe to say marijuana is safer than peanuts, right?

In another recent American study conducted by Kindgreenbuds.com, a comparative analysis on various factors arising from the two drugs focused on tobacco and marijuana. The following results were advanced:

 

Factor Tobacco Marijuana
Deaths per year 443,000 0
Cancer risk Causes cancer Cures cancer
Economic advantage Tobacco Tax revenue for 2009 – $17,157,014 Enforcement cost – 7.6b per year
Medical value Has no medical value Used medically to cure several ailments
Legal status LEGAL ILLEGAL

It is surprising, and maybe even alarming to note that tobacco is legal while marijuana is punishable by a steep term of 4 – 21 years in prison. Also, find below a list of interesting facts about some distinctions between marijuana smoking and tobacco smoking:

  • Marijuana smokers generally don’t chain smoke, and so they smoke less
  • Tobacco contains nicotine, marijuana does not – Nicotine hardens the arteries and is responsible for much of the heart related diseases caused by tobacco.
  • Marijuana contains THC. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is a bronchial dilator which works like a cough syrup and opens up your lungs and aids clearance of smoke and dirt. Nicotine does the opposite; it makes your lungs bunch up and makes it harder to cough.
  • Marijuana makes you relax and improves your health and well-being.

While smoking anything may be a questionable choice, tobacco is extremely bad for your health while cannabis is not. Yet tobacco is legal and cannabis is not. This is a fundamental and chronic problem. – Anonymous

The Business Insider on 20th April 2014 published a list of some of the known health benefits of marijuana consumption. They include:

  • Can be used to treat glaucoma;
  • Reverses the carcinogenic effects of tobacco use;
  • Helps control epileptic seizures;
  • Cures depression;
  • Cures migraines;
  • Reduces the pain from menstrual cramps (Queen Victoria was known to use marijuana to treat her menstrual cramps);
  • Slows the progression of Alzheimer’s disease;
  • Eases the pain of multiple sclerosis;
  • Soothes the tremors from Parkinson’s disease;
  • Controls premature ejaculation;
  • Increases appetite;
  • Cures insomnia;
  • Keeps you skinny and helps your metabolism;
  • Spurs creativity in the brain, etc.

God made weed, man made beer. In God we trust! – Anonymous

Shortly after every tobacco advert (which seems to have stopped airing lately), you hear; “The Federal Ministry of Health warns that smokers are liable to die young”. This concluding message makes me cringe. If it is so harmful, why then is it legal?

When you consider the economic benefits of legal marijuana, this argument gets stronger. In a publication: “The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition”, it was argued that if the US government legalized marijuana, it would save $7.7 billion per year in expenditure on enforcement of prohibition. Also, marijuana legalization would yield tax revenue of $2.4 billion annually if it were taxed like all other goods and $6.2 billion annually if it were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco.[3]

The case for the legalization or at least decriminalization of marijuana has been on the front burner in the United States of America. The possession, cultivation, sale and transportation of marijuana is illegal under Federal Law in the US. However, states have taken a different position. States like Washington and Colorado have legalized the use of recreational marijuana, while Alaska, Arizona, California and 15 other States[4] approve the use of marijuana for medical purposes only.

Some other countries have lent their voice to the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana. In Uruguay, the possession, consumption, sale or transportation of marijuana is legal, In North Korea, the possession of marijuana is legal. In Netherlands, consumption of marijuana is legal within dedicated smoking areas. In other countries like Spain, Russia, Portugal, Peru, the possession or use of marijuana is illegal but has been decriminalized.

Recently, the CNN Chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, reversed his position on medical marijuana. He was quoted as saying, after he admitted to being wrong in ignoring marijuana’s medical potential, “We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my role in that.”

Nigeria is a country that believes strongly in its values and moral stands. However, in copying our western friends, alcohol and tobacco have been legalized in Nigeria, while marijuana remains banned. With the advent of insightful research on the effects of marijuana vis-à-vis alcohol and tobacco, it can be rightly adduced that the decision to ban marijuana is misguided.

In the light of the above facts, the amendment or possible abolishment of the Indian Hemp Act is imperative, to avoid sending well meaning Nigerians to an unwarranted prison term, for doing themselves and the nation no harm whatsoever.

  • @munamike

(2014)

[1] Cap I6, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004

[2] Cap D1, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004

[3] Miron, Jeffrey A (June 2005). “The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition”.

[4] Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont

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