By Alex Ajipe
The feedback that followed the expression of interest of the legal luminary and progressive governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, to turn the menace of the widespread cultivation of indian hemp in Ondo State into an advantage has been interesting. Whilst some people took their time to listen to his remarks and to understand and appreciate the issues he raised, the clarity and purity of his intentions and the objectivity of his ideas, others have chosen to either, without deep appraisal, dismiss his ideas, their merits nonetheless, or use the controversy behind the subject of cannabis to play to the gallery of political correctness and score cheap political points.
I must first cast some facts in stone: First, I do not hold brief for Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu. I believe that he is more than competent to defend himself, after all, he is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and that is a prestigious position reserved for luminaries who have their way with words, and can stand their ground even in the face of popular, contrary opinion.
Secondly, I must add that I understand the way popular opinion works. Popular opinion usually shifts in favour of political correctness, whilst sometimes burying the timid truth. I therefore understand that like Arakunrin, I might be swimming against the current of popular opinion whilst the truth rests peaceably ashore.
Let us talk about the truths surrounding Cannabis in Ondo State in particular, and Nigeria/Africa in general. Ondo State holds the record of being the state in which cannabis is cultivated the most, despite the efforts of the Ondo State Government and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), and the prohibition of such cultivation by Nigerian Law. The sad reality is that Cannabis thrives on our land, and farmers have found it as a lucrative trade.
Another truth is that it is an open secret that some plants such as cannabis form part of the active, beneficial ingridients of pharmaceutical products constituted to promote health and physical wellbeing. The practice in progressive countries is to grow these plants under very strict monitoring, and meticulously monitor the supply chain of these plants. Cannabis is one of such plants. It is known to promote hair growth, reduce pressure on the eyes and therefore, give almost immediate relief to people suffering from glaucoma. It is also known to improve lung health, regulate body metabolism and help people trying to combat weight gain, relieve arthritis, help manage Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and even help reverse certain form of cancers. The health benefits of marijuana are too many to list and too significant to ignore!
Absolutely outlawing marijuana can be likened to throwing out the baby with the bath water. There are credible commercial and medical arguments that should at least be entertained whilst we revisit the cannabis issue. First, Nigeria is running out of oil with low production and dwelling market price. We cannot rely on taxation alone to create jobs and create wealth. Our GDP is crawling and we are in critical need of foreign exchange to boost our ailing economy. Several countries across the world are already proposing that we channel our cannabis plantations to supply the growing demand for medicinal cannabis. Whilst we are yet to heed these call, farmers, tempted by poverty, are selling cannabis to drug dealers, and these drugs are finding their ways back to our streets and driving our youths crazy.
I am not saying legalize the street usage of marijuana. I would not stand for such. I won’t put on the streets what I cannot give my children. But if any acquaintance of mine suffers from any of the above ailments, I would gladly recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) oil (derived from cannabis) to help them heal. If like me, you would, and yet, you are taking a hard stance on the cannabis issue, then you are being either self-righteous or downright hypocritical.
I must emphasize again, for purpose of clarity that I am not advocating the usage of cannabis for leisure or entertainment. I am only strongly proposing that conversations be had about medicinal cannabis. I am saying that it can and should be further researched and cultivated for strictly medicinal purposes. I am saying that non-psychoactive cannabis, Connabidiol (CBD) molecule, (medicinal cannabis) should be exploited for our commercial gain and physical wellbeing. I am saying that the authorities should review the existing legislations and adopt the provisions of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Finally, it might interest the general public that in a legal opinion written by my friend Dr. Kayode Ajulo esq, he reveals that the NDLEA gave a letter of ‘No Objection’ to Medis Oil Company Ltd to import seeds of industrial Cannabis for research purposes. I also have it on good authority that several high-level staff of the agency are open to having strict policies for the cultivation of medicinal cannabis. What I implore the authorities to do is that they create avenues where various stakeholders, legal experts, professionals and the government meet to critically, holistically and openly discuss the issues. Let the hardliners receive enlightenment and stop playing to the gallery. The world is beginning to review their stance. For once in our existence as a nation, we need to deploy critical, progressive thinking to solve the wicked problem of Cannabis. We have a mighty lot to gain and absolutely nothing to lose (besides our egos) if we do this the right way.
– Chief (Dr.) Ajipe is MD/CEO of Klick Konnect Networks International limited, and Irawo Ola of Yoruba Kingdom.
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