We Must be High to Legalize Marijuana in Ghana
Like the Arab Spring, the marijuana spring is rising all across the world but without violence. Some Ghanaians including seasoned journalist Kwesi Pratt Jnr and Mr. Yaw Akrasi Sarpong of the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) have voiced their support for the legalization of weed (popularly known as wee in Ghana)
Of course, there are also peaceful “protests” from well-meaning members of the Ghanaian society, myself inclusive who believe our beloved country Ghana is not ready in all aspects to legalize weed. Here’s why:
Let’s take alcohol for example;
It’s not illegal to purchase alcohol here in Ghana so long as one is beyond the legal age limit. Even that, we have failed in enforcing this rule. I have personally witnessed young kids sent to a beer bar by their parents and family members to buy alcoholic drinks. The bar owners/attendants make these sales to these kids without asking for any form of identification.
Our failure to enforce this basic rule exposes these kids to alcohol and many of them pick up the habit of drinking alcohol at a very young age and graduate to full-blown drunkards later in life.
So, if as a nation we are unable to solve this basic problem today, why would we want to compound the enforcement problem by legalizing a more addictive substance like weed? It will surprise you to know how easy it is to buy weed on the streets of Accra even with the fact that it’s still an illicit drug.
What solutions do we have in place for alcohol addicts (drunkards)?
The economies that are trumpeting the legalization of weed have social programs available to “cure” addictions. For example, starting October 17th, 2018, Canada will legalize Cannabis for all over the age of 18. Canada has put in a very good policy to protect public health with its Cannabis Legalization and Regulation. Read here ( http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/cannabis/ )
Canada also has one of the best addiction centers in the world. Edgewood Health Network is one of such world-class facilities spread across Canada. I could count over 10 of such facilities. These centers offer drug and alcohol detox and counseling for all individuals of all walks of like, of course at a decent price. The obvious reason is to help individuals fight addiction so they can go on with their work and family lives. Whereas in Ghana and in most parts of Africa, we lack such facilities, we are still struggling to provide basic needs like water, roads, and electricity.
In Ghana, we have Accra and Ankaful psychiatric hospitals. Bear in mind these are hospitals that offer somewhat similar treatments and are not necessarily addiction counseling centers. These two facilities are mostly perceived as a one stop for a condemn-no-maintenance (after one is completely gone made).
To those who argue for the legalization of weed, what will you do if your brother, sister, son or daughter end up a marijuana addict? (not even to a point of being mentally challenged) where do you take them? Well, your guess is as good as the mine. Will you take up where they left off? will you pay for their children’s school fees and provide for their well-being?
While we are still struggling to fight the effects of alcohol on our roads and communities why would one even think of the idea of legalizing weed at this time? One who’s yearning for rain must first have a roof over his head. Can you imagine sitting in a troski (bus) and the driver is high as f**k? Since when did Bob Marley become a bus driver? Unless the status quo changes. Our roads will be too dangerous for all road users if we allow this to happen
- Crime and Policing
These countries that advocate for cannabis legalization have an impeccable police force. We all know that in our Ghanaian and African societies for that matter there appears to be a positive correlation between marijuana use and crime. Go into our prisons and you’ll find thousands incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses. Most of whom are school dropouts, gang members and jobless members of the society. Our prisons do not have any form of addictions counseling programs available to such individuals hence they serve their sentences only to leave the walls of the prisons and return soon after for the same or similar offenses
If Ghana legalizes weed, then it means all the wild and criminal elements locked up behind bars or will soon be, who are weed smokers will come home to live with us in our communities, crime will certainly go up the charts like never before. The advocates of weed legalization in Ghana will be first to call the police. Sadly, as it’s widely known in Ghana, the police may ask them to bring a taxi or pay for fuel so they can go and make any preliminary investigations and arrests. Chale e hard oh!
Although there is room for improvement, our police service and other security agencies like NACOB do not have enough personnel and resources for enforcement even in this era where marijuana is still considered an illicit drug.
Some people argue that it will be a good source of revenue for the Government of Ghana if it legalizes weed. How much tax has the government of Ghana collected from the sale of alcoholic beverages and how much has it spent on the do-not-drink-and-drive road safety campaign?
The government is struggling to collect taxes from regular legitimate businesses let alone tax from the sale of weed in Ghana. The weed seller no see you serf!
What We Need to Do
There’s no need to rush the legalization of weed. We need to up enforcement and also ensure we have the right facilities to offer counseling services for those who are addicts of all sort of hard drugs before we add marijuana to the list.
The journey is not a short one. Until our finance ministry is able to effectively capture an overwhelming number of taxpayers the revenue argument can park for now.
Do not get me wrong, marijuana has its positives but, all I am advocating is for us to consider the negatives too and make provisions for them before we think of legalization. If we rush to legalize marijuana we will need a double track system for all our psychiatric hospital.
Wisam Hamza Suhyini,
aka Lyrical Wanzam