As the youth grow up, they are warned about the “dangers” of marijuana and other substances. The supposed danger, as echoed by many, is that marijuana makes people become unkempt, irresponsible, lazy and ultimately, running-on-the-streets-naked (that is, madness). Some religious preachers go as far as to say that marijuana users are hell-bound. Since the 1950s, thousands have been jailed; countless properties have been confiscated by the government, and taxpayers’ money has been wasted on the war on drugs in Nigeria, through the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
Marijuana is a medical plant grown in various states across the country, mostly in the southwest of Nigeria, where the land is arable and fertile for agriculture. The popular belief is that, the plant was brought into the country by soldiers returning from World War II, who had access to marijuana seed via the Far East and North Africa. When the international community embarked on the war on drugs, our government introduced laws banning the cultivation, use and trade of marijuana.
To date, these laws have thrown many citizens into jail, forced private property confiscation, and created discrimination against individuals who might only have a seed in their possession. Gradually, these discriminatory laws have influenced our culture, and now marijuana users are regarded as the scum of the society. Criminal activities like rape, robbery, kidnapping, and militancy are associated with marijuana and this has created the impression that anyone who takes the drug must be a criminal. More often than not, users are the first suspect in any criminal case, often wrongfully so.
Where has this led us? The police carry out aggressive raids in communities where marijuana users live, often just to extort them. At checkpoints, anyone found in possession of even a seed of marijuana is automatically stripped of his rights, and if he “talks too much”, he would be beaten black and blue by law enforcement agents.
Nigerians, especially human rights activists, rarely speak out on the brutalisation and dehumanisation of marijuana users in the country. And if one dares to speak out, it is first alleged that he must be a user, before being sent on discriminatory path.
A politician accused of embezzling public funds in mind-boggling proportion can appear in court with 70 Senior Advocates in tow, but such act would not be excused if the case has to do with marijuana, a plant. Rather, junior lawyers take charge knowing full well that, because of the strict law in place, the accused is already guilty as charged.
We need to review the laws surrounding marijuana usage in Nigeria, so we can reduce the number of individuals – especially young people – being jailed for the intake of a plant. In countries, such as The Netherlands and Spain, the use of marijuana for recreational purposes is tolerated. In a country that promotes agriculture as a major economic sector, hectares of land belonging to individuals in Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Edo, Kaduna and Plateau states have been seized by the government.
As free people who are no longer under colonial control, why should the government decide what one grows on his farmland? Farmers are still required by law to pay taxes on their profits, and when there is no business for them, they’ll turn to other crops or different industries.
Nigeria, being a producer of high-potency marijuana can profit from the marijuana business by increasing exports to countries with deficit of marijuana farming. For a country with a lot of traditional medical practitioners, the use of marijuana can also be encouraged with the lifting of the ban on the use of the plant.
Our politicians, lawmakers, and civil servants are quick to brandish academic certificates on leadership and management, but none on public/consumer choice. It is as simple as it sounds. Individuals should be free to choose what they want for themselves and this, in turn, encourages production of goods and services.
If we are truly equal before the law, no one should be made an outcast because they choose to grow or use marijuana. There is no discrimination for people who eat fatty foods, or consume alcohol.
The freedom of Nigerians to choose what works for them should not be restricted to elections alone. The consumers should also have the liberty to choose what they consume, what they grow, and which business to go into, with the marijuana industry being one of them.
Source: The Nation News