Home Health & Food Stamp out cannabis abuse, trafficking

Stamp out cannabis abuse, trafficking

by James Davies

The recent disclosure by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control that 10.6 million Nigerians have used cannabis in the past year is worrisome and deserves urgent attention. The lament by the Director-General of NAFDAC, Mojisola Adeyeye, that cannabis is often introduced to many people while in their teens underscores the scale of the problem where youths acquire damaging life-long habits with negative consequences on their health and society.

Adeyeye explained that cannabis use, especially its most common derivative, marijuana, is seven times higher among men, with 18.8 per cent of Nigerian men having tried it compared to 2.6 per cent of women.

Despite legal prohibitions which criminalise the use of Indian hemp – an alternative term for the weed – smoking it has become widespread across the country. Lack of enforcement by security agents has also emboldened its smokers, who openly puff away on the streets, garages, and in other public spaces without any fear, reprimand, or restriction. Increased use of cannabis, say experts, has contributed to the high levels of anti-social activities, crime, insecurity, and terrorism in the country.

The Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Mohammed Marwa, states that Nigeria has the highest cannabis use rate in the world. More alarming is the disclosure that over 35 million people around the world are suffering from drug abuse disorder.
Nigeria needs to act strongly as the UN Sustainable Development Goal 3 charging countries to ensure healthy living and well-being for all, also explicitly targets prevention and treatment of substance abuse, especially narcotics, and alcohol misuse.

A global problem, the 2022 UNODC World Drug estimates the number of cannabis users worldwide at 209 million people. It indicated that the use of cannabis and other illicit substances had increased. Nigeria was listed alongside Morocco, Egypt, South Africa, Eswatini, Ghana, and Zambia, as countries with sizeable quantities of cultivated cannabis in the continent.

Another survey in 2021 showing that 14.4 per cent of Nigeria’s population aged 15-64 had used illicit drugs highlights the magnitude of the problem. High-risk drug users were estimated to account for 0.4 per cent of the population and almost all were regularly using opioids. Frequent arrests have not stopped the traffickers and users. Between January 2021 and July 2022, about 18,940 traffickers were arrested by NDLEA agents.

Short-term effects of cannabis use include intoxication, and disturbances on consciousness, cognition, perception, or behaviour and other psychological functions and responses. Longer-term effects include cognitive impairment, mental disorders—ranging from psychoses, depression, anxiety and suicidal behaviour, and adverse physical health effects such as cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and respiratory and other cancers.

Hospital records in Benin, Edo State, between 1999 and 2022 showed that cannabis use accounted for 70 per cent of 849 first-time psychiatrist hospital visits, diagnosed with psychotic disorders and other psychopathologies. This is a national trend.

Drug abuse undermines a country’s sovereignty and security in different ways. Experts have identified drug abuse as a security threat to West Africa, noting the fragility of West African countries in terms of inadequate police officers, judges, and prisons for drug-addled criminals. In some countries, drug cartels have been known to plan coups, sponsor politicians, and fund insurgents who kill, rape, and commit arson while high on drugs.

Marwa confirmed that cannabis, and other opioids are often discovered by soldiers after raids on the hideouts of the terrorists and bandits operating around the country.

Stopping the trafficking and usage requires a multi-pronged strategy, weaving together operations and programmes by federal and state level enforcement agencies, health agencies, social welfare, and youth departments of the three tiers of government, NGOs, communities, and faith-based organisations.

In the Western hemisphere, where drug use results in social costs of an estimated $600 billion yearly in the United States, and €7.6 billion in EU countries, there have been arguments for and against legalising it. One strand increasingly canvassed by rights and health groups is to treat drug abuse as a health issue; another is whether to decriminalise it completely since it has both recreational and health uses.

In the US, Investopedia stated that federally legal cannabis could generate an additional $105.6 billion in aggregate federal tax revenue by 2025. Some US states and Canada have legalised it for recreational and medicinal uses. Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State has campaigned for its decriminalisation in Nigeria to harness the $145 billion he reckons the global legalised marijuana market can fetch.

In Nigeria, marijuana cultivation, trafficking, and use are criminalised. Invariably, corruption and compromise thrive. A truckload of cannabis weighing 5,124kg, valued at N439 million intercepted by the Customs Strike Force in January was allegedly being transported in collaboration with some security agents. In February 2022, Abba Kyari, a deputy commissioner of police, and four other police officers were arrested for alleged involvement in drug trafficking. The Nigeria Police also accused NDLEA agents of complicity in the illicit drug trade. Corrupt security personnel should be identified and flushed out of the system.

Lacking government support for cash crop cultivation, many farmers have taken to the more lucrative but risky marijuana cultivation. A 2019 survey found that 8,900 hectares of land were devoted to cannabis cultivation in South-West Nigeria and Edo State. Western governments and aid agencies adopt the strategy of assisting farmers growing coca in Asia and South America to switch to other crops. Nigeria should try this too. Farmers in the South-West for instance should be assisted to return to cocoa growing in which Nigeria was the world’s second largest producer in the 1960s.

The police should resume raiding Indian hemp joints and arresting users and traffickers. The state governments should confront the drug use issue as both a crime, and social and health problem.

Although the NDLEA has made some strides in arresting and prosecuting drug offenders, and in destroying many cannabis farms, for greater impact, it should collaborate more closely with the Nigeria Police and other federal and state law enforcement agencies.

Copyright PUNCH
All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.
Contact: [email protected]

Source link

You may also like

Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

I am 18 or Older I am Under 18