Thursday, November 30, 2023

Ghana: The campaign for the decriminalization of medicinal cannabis

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Atiewin Mbillah Lawson
Atiewin Mbillah Lawson
Atiewin Mbillah Lawson is an award winning radio show host and journalist from Ghana. She also has special interest in world affairs reporting.

Ghana’s parliament is currently considering the Narcotics Control Commission Bill.

Once passed, the bill is expected to shift focus of drug dependence, from law enforcement and punishment, to treating it as a public health issue.

Many have applauded the move as one that wold be a progressive step towards assisting persons struggling with drug addiction described as a disease.

But same cannot be said about the possible decriminalization of Cannabis; a campaign the Hemp Association of Ghana has embarked on.

Cannabis Use in Ghana

Currently, the use, possession and even production of Cannabis without a licence in Ghana remains illegal.

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As a matter of fact, According to the Narcotic Drugs (Control, Enforcement and Sanction) Act, 1990 (PNDCL 236), (1) Any person who imports or exports any narcotic drug without a license issued by the Secretary for Health (Minister of Health) for that purpose commits an offence and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a term not less than ten years.

(2) The Secretary for Health may grant a license for the importation of narcotic drugs if on an application made to him by such persons as may be prescribed he is satisfied that the license can be properly granted.

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Debate for and against Decriminalization of Cannabis

For the Hemp association of Ghana, the gains that the decriminalization and legalization of cannabis could provide, entirely outweigh any disadvantages.

According to President of the Hemp Association of Ghana Nana Kwaku Agyemang, “We seem to get lost in this issue of getting high, and all we can talk about as Ghanaians is smoking.

As President of the Hemp association of Ghana, we are not promoting smoking, we are promoting industry, we are promoting cleaning up the environment, we are promoting creating a new revenue stream for government in terms of taxing from cultivation and export and we are taking about promoting medicines that are far better than opioids, medicines that cannot kill you because no one has died from taking cannabis.”

But not all are in agreement. For Convener of the Coalition of CSOs on Narcotic Control Commission Law (CNCCL), Issah Ali, the addictive nature of cannabis, irrespective of its low mortality rate is enough basis for why it should not be decriminalized.

“Some drugs may not kill users but because the person becomes addicted to those drugs, it will push the person to engage in other practices just to feed that addiction.

That’s why experts in Ghana say we must do everything possible to prevent people from using these drugs such as cannabis” he told Africa Feeds.

A common view of many is that the consumption of Cannabis may result in mental breakdowns and memory loss as well and rowdy behaviour, a belief confirmed by Chief Executive Officer of Mental Health Authority, DrAkwasi Osei.

“We already know, and anyone who says otherwise, is not being objective about the powerful effects of cannabis on the mind and body. That is clear.”

Dr, Akwasi Osei went on to provide some statistics to back his assertion saying “of all the case we have coming to the Psychiatric hospital, as much as 30% of the out-patient cases are on various drugs including cannabis. If you extract Cannabis alone, it would be about 15% to 20%. That is for out-patient. On admission, the figure is about 10%, so it obviously has an effect.”

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While supporting the need to rehabilitate persons struggling with cannabis addiction as opposed to imprisonment, i.e. the decriminalization of addictive behaviour, Dr. Akwasi Osei also noted that economic gains from cannabis should not be entertained.

“Who said you can’t have economic benefits if you allowed armed robbery to go on and then you can tax them? So let’s not look at the economic benefits, let’s look at the eventual effects it could have on the individual, the family and society as a whole.

You may get millions of dollars in tax and revenues, but you may have to get double that money to cure the harm from it,” he said.

It is now left to Ghanaian lawmakers to decide on the issue as they continue to consider the bill which could settle the controversy.





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