Reports making the rounds indicate that the Ondo State government has concluded plans to commence what it calls the medicinal cultivation of Indian hemp from where cannabis is derived. It was also reported that a delegation from the state headed by the governor, Chief Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, went to Thailand recently to acquire the technology.
The governor, in justifying this deadly embrace with a banned and addictive substance, claimed that the country stands to lose $145 billion in 2025 if it failed to tap into the medicinal marijuana market. He should also have told Nigerians how many people will be destroyed when they come in contact with the substance. He confirmed that his state is the hotbed of marijuana cultivation in Nigeria. Very commendable. Akeredolu actually pleaded with the federal government to take it seriously because, according to him, it is a thriving industry that has the capacity to create thousand jobs. Nigeria does not need this one.
This newspaper accepts that there is a compelling need to provide jobs for the teeming unemployed youths in the country. But there are other decent, legal and acceptable ways of doing it without compounding an existing societal malady. We appreciate the predicament of the state government with regard to paucity of internally generated revenue (IGR). We also argue that the benefits derivable from this precarious route Ondo is about to take cannot justify the danger to society its outcome will constitute. Of what value will it be to the state if it makes billions from a banned substance and spends most of it managing victims of uncontrolled consumption of the same substance that has been proved to be a mind- bender?
To start with, the cultivation and consumption of marijuana in the country is illegal and, therefore, banned. The Ondo state government wants to add to the problem of unemployment the rascality involved in marijuana. The governor talked about controlled cultivation. We wonder what that means because no matter how much control is applied to the cultivation, the fact remains that it will be available to those who will be tempted to experiment with consuming it. And they are many.
We are worried that Ondo State is about to be carried away by the allure of the money to be made from this business. We are, likewise, convinced that it is not worth the trouble. The former United States of America President, Barrack Obama, in legalising the substance in that country claimed that it enhances creativity. Maybe. But creativity, by its very nature, is innate and does not have to be induced, especially by a killer drug, because it does lead to addiction with its attendant health and other anti-social consequences.
This resort to illegality by a whole state government desperate to enhance its internally generated revenue exposes the laziness and inability to think constructively on the part of these politicians. They are always out for quick fixes that lead to nowhere. They want easy ways out of very serious problems that require in-depth analysis and enduring solutions that will stand the test of time.
Ondo State is blessed with large deposits of bitumen, a variety of the almighty hydrocarbon that is the mainstay of the nation’s economy. Ondo State was the centre of the cocoa industry that sustained the whole of former Western Region in the first republic and partly during the military era. All these are abandoned only for the government to begin to think of compounding existing drug problems in the country. Cocaine, too, is medicinal. The state can also explore the possibility of cultivating coca plant from where it is derived so as to generate billions it needs for ‘development’.
Another area of concern is that when the government talks about creating jobs, they think in terms of those areas the children of the elite will find below their dignity to venture into. The children of that class of citizens are studying abroad or are engaged in upscale government offices. Invariably, if the state succeeds in this ill-advised venture, it will be the children of the poor and the deprived who will be drafted into it so that they can cultivate it, consume part of what they cultivate, get ‘high’, a euphemism for abuse and become willing instrument in their hands to deal with their opponents and afterwards become a nuisance to decent society.
It is our opinion that the Ondo State government did not think through what it desires to get into. For all the money in the world, Ondo State or any other state for that matter, owes its citizens a duty not to get involved in this medicinal marijuana business. The federal government must see to it that the cultivation and consumption of marijuana remain illegal and banned. Ondo State government must rethink this decision because it has no right to destroy the citizens of Nigeria for the sake of money-blood money in this case.
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