In 2013, the world was taken aback when the President of the small Latin American nation of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, took a bold step of legalising marijuana. What this meant was that marijuana was made commercially available to the citizens of adult age.
Also known as Cannabis, report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Control, estimates that 183 million people worldwide used cannabis in 2015, more than 3.8 per cent of the planet’s population, while the global market worth is estimated at $7.7 billion.
The age bracket of majority of users is put at 20-24 years, with a higher number being males and in high income regions. Such countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Western European countries such as the United Kingdom have higher problems with Marijuana. This is why efforts are being made in such countries to control the use and punish offenders.
Cannabis in Nigeria is illegal yet the country is a major source of West African grown Cannabis and ranked world’s eight highest producer of the illicit drug. Though the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) was established in 1990 to handle cases of illicit drug trade and consumption in the country, the fight still remains largely unsuccessful. Two weeks ago, the Nigerian Senate approved the use of Marijuana for medicals in the country.
Marijuana is a plant containing a psychoactive chemical, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in its leaves, buds and flowers. The short-term effects of marijuana include immediate, temporary changes in mood, thoughts, perceptions and information processing. People under the influence of Marijuana also display diminished capacity to learn and recall new information. Other effects are feelings of panic, anxiety, and paranoia which may be very frightening. Occasionally, marijuana use may produce anxiety, fear, distrust, or panic, altered sensory perceptions and feelings of being invincible.
However, experts have posited that Marijuana could be recreational or social as well as medicinal. Medicinal Marijuana has been shown to be effective in reducing the nausea and vomiting induced by cancer chemotherapy. It helps to stimulate appetite in AIDS patients, and reported to help in reducing intraocular pressure in people with glaucoma. There is also appreciable evidence that marijuana reduces muscle spasticity in patients with neurological disorders.
Recreational Marijuana is non processed and highly variable in potency. This is where the problem lies as this is often taken in by smoking. Experts state that one would not know until ones first drag which could be quite dangerous. Marijuana use, they insist, impairs a person’s ability to form new memories and to shift focus. It also disrupts coordination and balance by disrupting parts of the brain that regulate balance, posture, coordination, and reaction time. Therefore, learning, doing complicated tasks is also affected. At some doses, marijuana affects perception and psychomotor performance – changes which could impair driving ability.
While some experts call cannabis a public health menace that is addictive and destroys lives by robbing people of ambition, others call it a cure for everything from insomnia to glaucoma, and advocate its use as a medicine. The former wants it to be illegal; the latter wants it prescribed by doctors.
However, since the early 1980s, medical researchers have published about how cannabis relieves pressure in the eye, thus easing the symptoms of glaucoma, a disease that causes blindness. Without doubt smoking it do cause lung damage. And, like the legal intoxicant alcohol, cannabis can become addictive. This newspaper is worried that legalising medical marijuana is most likely to increase the availability and use of the illicit drugs, and pose significant health and safety risks. To this extent, it is ill-advised at this time given the preponderance of drug abuse in the society especially among the more vulnerable group-the youth. Add the legal use of the substance to the problem of unemployment, the country will have lethal bomb on her hands.
Already, Nigeria is plagued with a situation where non- enforcement of policy has become common which could embolden citizens to exploit the legalization of Marijuana for social use and other undesirable uses. We are, therefore, compelled to warn that this will endanger young people and ‘contribute to the early onset of addiction.’ In our opinion,, the classification or legalisation of drugs shouldn’t be a political issue. The views of professional must inform any legislation in that direction.