It’s no secret that for a while now, Nigerians have clamoured for the legalisation of Cannabis, also called marijuana or weed, and it seems like federal lawmakers are finally considering it.
According to the current National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Act, if you’re caught in possession of marijuana, you’re liable to a minimum of 12 years in prison and, in cases of trafficking, life imprisonment.
But a bill co-sponsored by Benjamin Kalu, Olumide Osoba and Miriam Onuoha seeks to amend the NDLEA Act to instead allow and regulate the growth and cultivation of Cannabis for medical and recreational purposes. This bill proposes establishing a system for the NDLEA to register, issue and revoke licences of Cannabis producers and users.
However, at the second reading of this bill on March 23, 2023, several members of the House of Representatives opposed and criticised it, which led to the House stepping down the bill for further legislative action.
An argument from many people in support of legalising weed in Nigeria is that it’s a lesser evil. For instance, it’s presumably “safer” than cigarettes and alcohol. Here are some perceived benefits of legalising Cannabis in Nigeria.
Over the years, marijuana’s medicinal properties have been one of its major selling points. Studies have shown that it helps with cancer treatments and pain relief. In 2018, the Federal and Drug Administration Agency (FDA) approved using a medication containing Cannabis to treat epilepsy.
Another Source of Revenue
Although Cannabis is illegal in Nigeria, the NDLEA disclosed that nearly 10.6 million Nigerians used it in 2022. Legalising it would mean it can be taxed, and we can join the likes of Malawi and Zambia and make millions in revenue from the global marijuana market.
Reduced police brutality
The Nigerian police have unfortunately used the excuse of “finding” weed on young people for harassment and assault. Cannabis legalisation would hopefully reduce these occurrences, and the police could spend time tracking down offenders of serious crimes.
One of the reasons why members of the House of Representatives opposed this bill is concerns of abuse and addiction. These concerns are legitimate; with this, we’ll break down some cons of legalising Cannabis in Nigeria.
Nigeria is battling a drug abuse problem, for instance, crystal meth in the South-East. Cannabis can be a gateway drug leading people to more severe drugs like cocaine and heroin.
Psychological side effects
Although marijuana is repeatedly termed “harmless”, we shouldn’t forget that it has hallucinogenic properties. And if abused, it can cause delusions and hallucinations, anxiety, panic attacks and reduced muscle control. There are records from hospitals in Benin, Edo state which showed that between 1999 to 2022, 70 per cent of 849 first-time psychiatric hospital visits were caused by Cannabis abuse.
It can end up with children
Although an age limit will be placed for cannabis use, it will likely end up in children’s hands, which can lead them to drug abuse and addiction from an early age.
It’s just as dangerous as a cigarette
Another point to dispel the belief that marijuana is harmless is that just like a regular cigarette, it’s also dangerous to your lungs and maybe even worse. A journal revealed that one joint of marijuana is equivalent to five cigarettes.
We don’t know yet if the House of Representatives will succeed in legalising Cannabis, but there is a lot to think about.