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Opinions of Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Columnist: Abdulai, Alhaji Alhasan

Are we really ready to legalize ‘wee’ in Ghana

By Alhaji Alhasan Abdulai



Our own Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations has made a suggestion on cannabis that has stunned many people in Ghana and elsewhere in the world. The soft spoken 2nd African after late Butros Butros Gali of Egypt to occupy the highest civil service position at the UN is noted for speaking more on democracy, security and good governance. However quite recently he veered surprisingly into pushing for the legalization of cannabis and other personal drugs with the advice that regulations must be put in place by governments to curtail their abuse. Among his reasons for calling for legalization of cannabis and other drugs is that war against them internationally seems to be unsuccessful and that in most U S states and some European countries where cannabis and other drugs were legalized fewer people indulged in them. He argued that jailing young people on drug charges instead of educating them on their effect would lead to the destruction of their future. Kofi Annan is not alone in the effort towards loosening the grip by the security and the law courts on the production and use of cannabis and other drugs. A new report by the International Narcotics Control Board lists the cannabis as the most abused substance in West Africa yet Ghana is moving gradually to decriminalize its use in order to control its use and to provide help for the users.

According to the report only one out of 18 drug addicts gets help as a result of the criminalization

The Deputy Minister of the Interior James Agalga has hinted that a bill has been presented to parliament to address the issue to decriminalize marijuana. MR Akrasi Sarpong the boss of Narcotics Control Board NACOB who once called for the decriminalization of cannabis in Ghana is now calling for debate on the issue for the nation to take a stand on it. A group of Rastafarians in Ghana are also pushing for the new law now before parliament to be passed to allow free use of cannabis which they say is harmless and would not be widely abused. It is true that cannabis or wee that is cultivated in Ghana and other nation in the tropics is not a completely useless plant. At least it serves as a raw material for the production of hair creams, body lotions, pomades and some drugs and chemicals. In the nations where the plant is cultivated and processed in large quantities it is said to bring good returns to those nations. However in a developing nation like Ghana where the product is abused by our youth we ought to be careful with the views of government officials and prominent people who seem to be dragging the nation to emulate some developed nations that have legalized or decriminalized it. Instead there is the need for a nationwide discussions with people concerned including religious leaders’, traditional authorities,’ educational heads, psychiatrists, doctors on this delicate matter. When that happens we would be able to fashion a law on drugs that can stand the test of time. Currently people whose children and loved ones were affected negatively by the use and abuse of cannabis would not agree to the enactment of a law to legalize the use of cannabis in Ghana. The doctors and psychiatrists who have come face to face with the harm cannabis has done to people would also not agree to the decriminalization of wee in Ghana. It is advisable for parliament to listen to the views of the medical men on this issue in order for the law makers to proceed to enact a law on cannabis from an informed oppositions Dr Akwasi Osei who has been following the progress of his patients says that 10 percent of patients on admission at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital and 30 per cent outpatient cases are drug related. For that matter we need to be careful in fashioning a law with a technical team to follow up on production and consumption rate of the product before we decriminalize cannabis use. Before the law on cannabis which prohibits unapproved production sale and use of cannabis is amended the Ministry of Interior must continue supporting the Ghana Police Service to go after and round up wee farmers who are cultivating cannabis at the expense of food crops. the Ghana police deserve commendation b arresting many wee farmers exporters and smokers of late . The cultivation of large wee farms in Ghana would lead to many youth getting hooked to it especially in the rural areas a situation that can lead them to join criminal gangs in the country. Those trafficking wee and those young and old people smoking them in Ghana must also be arrested .If the authorities fail to take this step, all those who abuse cannabis would go ahead to do their own thing and begin to export them in large quantities to countries outside Ghana . That would soil our reputation. We must not get to that stage because we have many commodities that we can rely on for consumption at home and for export. We must not accept suggestions being made to us by our icons like Kofi Annan, Mr. Akrasi Sarpong and government officials would tell us about cannabis without thinking about the cost. We must think through their suggestions to decide on our own what steps to take on cannabis in the interest of the nation.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
EANFOWORLD FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
0244 370345/ 0264370345/0208844791 abdulai.alhasan@gmail.com/eanfoworld@yahoo.com