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Vanguard Against Drug Abuse (VGADA) conference on legalization of marijuana in Nigeria saw different opinions from key stakeholders in Nigeria. Many participants felt the country was not mature enough to embark on such journey of no return. This resulted to a debate as stakeholders shared their thoughts whether or not to legalize marijuana in Nigeria.
The conference was held on 26th June 2019 at NAF Conference Centre and Suites, Kado Abuja, in commemoration of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. It had in attendance key stakeholders and personalities such as His Excellency, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, the Executive Governor of Ondo State, Distinguish Senator Dino Melaye, Dr. Mike Omotosho, Dr. Williams Ebiti, others were, Mr. Oliver Stolpe, Country Representative, United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, Sir. Dr. Odia F.I, Mr. Dale Olorunfemi, Mr. Uchenna Enwerem amongst others.
The conference commenced with an opening remark by VGADA’s President, Dr Hope Omeiza who acknowledge the presence of invited guest before speaking briefly on the subject matter. The keynote speech was done by Dr. Mike Omotosho, Chief oversight officer, Sustainable Health Care International, represented by his Personal Assistance. According to him, marijuana is illegal in Nigeria, but the country is considered home to farmers and consumers of marijuana. He urged participants of the conference to deliberate wisely and decide on what is best for the Country.
Dr. Williams Ebiti, a consultant at Milestones Rehabilitation Foundation, cited the health benefits of medical use of marijuana. According to him:
Marijuana grows everywhere all over the Country and the policy on drugs is even more harmful than the drugs itself. Legalization of marijuana is not going to make it unavailable, but it’s going to make the Government have control over it, rather than put it in the hands of drug barons and cartel.
Marijuana is used for treatment of rear and severe forms of epilepsy, Chronic Pains, Glaucoma, Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
When you check the statistics of people that die globally due to drug abuse, the first on the list are those who consume alcohol followed by tobacco before cannabis (Marijuana).
Because marijuana is dangerous that is why we should legalize it and have control over it. We have lost the fight against drug abuse in Nigeria; we need a balanced drug policy that works for this current administration.
The fight against illegal drugs in Nigeria and other parts of the world is cursing more harm, as drug gangs and cartels continue to fight for territories just as the case of Mexico, Colombia and other countries.
Supporting the point made by Dr. Williams, His Excellency, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, the Executive Governor of Ondo State, representative by his Special Adviser, also stressed the need to legalize marijuana. According to him:
There is no reason why Nigeria shouldn’t legalize marijuana; some African countries are already exporting medical cannabis worth billions of dollars.
Cannabidiol (CBD oil) gotten from marijuana plant is very medicinal, it relieves pain, reduce anxiety and depression, it can Alleviate Cancer-Related Symptoms. Ondo state is the largest producers of marijuana plants in Nigeria, we are not asking the Government to set up bars where people come and abuse Cannabis, rather we are asking the Government to grant us license to cultivate medical marijuana for exports.
Nigerians who know the usefulness of CBD oil go extra miles to import the product into the Country, marijuana plants well grown do not get people high, except when it is contaminated. Legalizing marijuana for medical use will also make the product scare, farmers would rather export it for dollars than sell it to locals. Imagine the revenue we can generate exporting this product that we have in abundant.
Opposing the motion to legalize marijuana was Distinguish Senator Dino Melaye represented by his Personal Assistant. His reason was that there are other diverse areas that can generate revenue for the country taking Agriculture for an example. The 10% of Nigerians consuming marijuana are endangering lives of the remaining 90% of the population.
Also opposing the motion to legalize marijuana was Sir. Dr. Odia, he cited a scenario where a secondary school boy stabbed to death his colleague multiple times without feeling any remorse under the influence of marijuana.
Federal Ministry of Agriculture represented by Deputy Director Extension and Communication, Mr. Dele Olorunfemi disclosed the position of the Ministry on Legalization of Marijuana.
According to him:
Nigeria is not yet ready to move at this direction, we Nigerians are good in breaking what seems unbreakable, the problem legalizing marijuana at this time might cause is its regulations and enforcement. If we can get the enforcement right, then we can start thinking of legalizing.
The Country Representative, United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, Mr. Oliver Stolpe, crowned it all by saying the use of drug is growing into a global epidemic.
There are 10 millions of Nigerians using cannabis according to statistic, at this point, after proper research and deliberation, legalization of marijuana in Nigeria at this time will only curse more harm and increase the use of the drug in the Country.