Legalizing Cannabis In Nigeria: It’s a No for Now-Marwa

CHAIRMAN/Chief Executive, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa, Rtd, has said that the time has not come for Nigeria to think of legalizing cannabis sativa.

Marwa made the disclosure in Akure, the Ondo state capital, where he was the guest speaker at the 2021 Ulefunta annual public lecture organised by the Deji of Akure kingdom, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Aladetoyinbo Ogunlade Aladelusi.

While explaining why proponents of the legalisation of cannabis sativa may still have a long way to go particularly given the country’s very precarious security situation, the retired army General noted that giving free rein to illicit drugs is akin to licensing a behavioral pattern that leads to crises and conflict.

He pointed out that legalizing cannabis sativa in a developing nation like Nigeria is too dangerous given that it could become the launchpad for staging strifes and wars of unimaginable proportion as it is the case in Syria and Afghanistan.

The proliferation of illicit drugs often engenders a pattern of crime, chaos and conflict. In the advanced world, it is the driver of high crime rate and violent killings in the inner cities. In developing or Third World countries, it is the escalator of strife, pogroms and civil war, and has played a big role in countries torn to pieces by tribal war, such as it is playing our in Syria, which has become the hotbed of Captagon, and Afghanistan, which controls the opium trade.

“We have seen narco-terrorism in countries like Colombia and Mexico where drug cartels are law unto themselves and are as powerful, if not more powerful, than the State. So, there are real cases, not scenarios, of where and how illicit substances played a role in a societys rapid descent into chaos and tettering on the brink of a failed state.

Gen Marwa, represented by by his Special Adviser on National Drug Control Master Plan, NDCMP, Otunba Lanre Ipinmisho, challenged Nigerians, particularly those proposing a legal backing for the illicit drug to be honest enough to consider the role their consumption has played in festering insecurity in the country.

“…the pertinent question for us today is: Has drugs played any role in the festering insecurity in Nigeria? The answer is yes. Of this we have ample evidence. he pointed out.

The NDLEA boss urged those proposing its legalization to reconsider their position given the seemingly intractable security challenge facing the country at the moment. Nigeria, he argued, cannot afford to jump headlong into what appears to be a raging fire in the name of narcotic economy as the country has enough teething challenges on its hand.

“…we do not have the luxury of allowing a narcotic economy to take root and thrive in our society. Africa, nay, Nigeria has enough problems without adding the burden of narco-terrorism.

“Of all the known illicit substances, Cannabis sativa is the only one that is native to Nigeria and it is the most abused of all illicit drugs, and from the findings of the National drug Survey of 2018, cannabis is becoming a national albatross.

Gen Marwa, who disclosed that the number of Nigerians hooked on cannabis alone is more than the population of certain countries, including Portugal, Greece or the Republic of Benin, warned that the nation cannot afford to toy with the grim reality of legalising cannabis sativa. According to him, more than anything else, the country needs to provide illicit drugs control and monitoring infrastructure, both of which are sadly, still far from being in place.

“Where cannabis is concerned, we should not by any argument allow ourselves to become the proverbial fool that rushed in where angels fear to tread. Countries like Canada, that are pro-cannabis have strong and efficient institutions that are way ahead of ours by long mileages.

“Given the reality of our law enforcement, controlled cultivation of cannabis is a mirage. Arent pharmaceutical opioids controlled? Tramadol, codeine, rohypnol, benzopam, they are all controlled, yet, their trafficking and abuse is causing us unquantifiable human and economic loss. And for those who point at the inherent economic benefit that could accrue from legalisation of cultivation, in accordance with our reality, would you be comfortable, if by tomorrow, your 13-year-old son can easily access marijuana, or you find some wraps of weed in his pocket, or you learnt that someone has introduced your 16-year-old daughter to smoking Igbo under the pretext that it has medicinal value?

“Our individual answer to that question will give us a public opinion of where we should stand as a country in the cannabis debate.

Gen Marwa pointed out that the time has come for Nigerians to stop treating cannabis sativa like harmless confectioneries, noting that the drug remains an illicit drug that should be avoided by all.

We should stop treating cannabis like some sweet candy without any side effects. Its repercussions outweigh the vaunted benefits. And legalising its cultivation for a country like Nigeria, is a shortcut to illicit drug Armageddon. At a time we are taking a forward march in the fight against drug abuse, attempting to paint cannabis in a favourable light is akin to taking backward steps.

Cannabis sativa, Gen Marwa pointed out, “…remains an illicit substance. The Agency shall always canvass against its cultivation, possession, trafficking and sales, and use. And offenders will face the wrath of the law. And, if I may add, our conviction rate is 90% successful.”

The cultural event was chaired by one time former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae.

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