Rejoinder; don’t succumb to pressure on cannabis legalisation by Timothy Ngenbe on Daily Graphic publication of Thursday 14, March 2019 (page 25).
We will start by saying that the Chief Executive officer of the Mental Health Authority is no authority when it comes to discussing the issue of legalisation and decriminalisation of the use of cannabis in Ghana. In the news report, he says that human resources will be destroyed from legalising the use of cannabis in the country. Such assertions must be backed with facts and not hearsays. On the fact sheet column it reported also that “on the average, the Accra Psychiatric Hospital records 30,000 patients at its outpatients’ department annually” but did not include nor state how many of them out of that number were cannabis related backed with scientific proof.
There are news reports and articles suggesting alcoholic beverages, foreign (junk) foods, orthodox medications etc., as some source of rising illnesses like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and many more, which can be managed with the administration of cannabis. We will reiterate here that cannabis is not addictive, and does not require any treatment when one chooses to stop using it. It is in fact of huge benefits to Ghanaians.
Cannabis should be legalised decriminalised because the current crime committed by cannabis users is using it for their health, mental and emotional benefits. Legalization, by comparison, would allow people to use a relatively safe plant without the threat of arrest, and let all levels of government raise new revenues from cannabis sales and redirect resources to bigger needs.
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According to a report on Today News (2014), statistics from the Narcotic Control Board reveal that out of a total number of 50,000 drug users, 35,000 are students from junior, secondary and tertiary institutions, but the report fails to specify how many of them are cannabis users(which of course is not a drug but a plant).
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At this point, we will like to state that the use of repressive laws to prevent citizens from using cannabis plant tramples on their fundamental human rights. Take for instance a citizen who works and earns a living, looks after his family and is not a threat to society, is incarcerated for a minimum of ten years for mere possession (one roll) of a cannabis plant. This action from the law actually destroys the person and the family. It will have an adverse effect on people’s personality and temperament when released from prison. When in prison, they will now be exposed to the influence of hardened criminals such as rapists, armed robbers and other societal deviants.
We need to look at abuse and misuse or waste of human resources when youths who are leaders of tomorrow are sent to prison or prosecuted for using a cannabis plant which is good for us. Continuous enforcement of the criminal law against cannabis users in the country is the gross mismanagement of human resources. One of the important factors of production is the human factor (labour).
This particular factor of production is very necessary for economic growth so why lock up the youth and expect the economy to grow? Goods and services become scarce when the factor of production used to produce them are scarce.
Another negative effect is that the government will now spend money to care for them whiles in prison. Remember, already taxpayers money is being mismanaged through fuelling of the police cars used for the raids, court time, stationeries etc., now two things are lost here, human resources and financial resources for using a vegetative material (cannabis).
When labour as a single factor is missing, from the factors of production then nothing could be produced. Hence the government should look at repealing the draconic criminal law that continues to waste human resources by criminalising them for the use of cannabis plant. Now, labour, as we know, is the effort people contribute to the production of goods and services which includes but not limited to the work done by a waiter, a farmer, a driver, a cook, a messenger, a doctor, a lawyer, a journalist, an engineer, and so on.
It should be noted here that we need to drive towards efficiency that will benefit our society but not a corporation, hence the call for decriminalisation of cannabis use by Ghanaian citizens and all who live in Ghana. Resources are wasted when we take for example illegal drug and tobacco and alcohol industries, which like other industries or in manufacturing have the need to operate efficiently and also minimize unnecessary costs but it is however seen that their sales have negative impacts on our society.
Even the automobile that is made by labour also cost lives whenever there are accidents. Recently, an accident on the kintampo road caused the loss of lives and the drivers have the licence to drive, what could have been the cause of the accidents? Alcohol and tiredness have in some news report been attributed to road carnages in the country which we plead with our president to address as a matter of urgency.
The cannabis debate has gained a lot of positive response in the past with some countries legalising and giving freedom to its citizens and remove repressive laws that stifle citizens’ right to use the cannabis plant. North Korea is now currently ranked number one user after Ghana lost the position to them in 2015. In North Korea- cannabis is not considered as a drug and is allowed to be sold at food markets. They are ranked as the highest consumer of cannabis, where Cambodia comes second, with many restaurants cooking and offering it as a side dish to consumers and customers. Ghana was ranked as the third world highest consumer of cannabis with 21.5% of its total citizens between the ages of 15-64 involved in heavy smoking and usage of the plant. Tailing behind Ghana is the Netherlands as fourth. Uruguay is the fifth highest consumer and with a conviction and ambition to be the world’s first country to have a state-run cannabis industry.
Late Kofi Annan added his voice when the West African drug Policy reform was formed calling for decriminalisation as a result of loss in the war on drugs. It is very wrong to classify a plant as a drug and proper consultations must be made to this effect. Do we even know why cannabis is prohibited? Political, racial and economic reasons were behind it and not health.
One would note that the arrest on cannabis is skewed because it is usually the have not’s, who are found in ghettos that are arrested. You find students there because of the persecution and stigma on cannabis users, so they go there and purchase to smoke or use it for their personal benefits. Let us consider how to manage these human resources and free cannabis users so they do not end up in police cells and or prisons and save police the time to fight real crimes and also financial obligations towards logistics.
Mr Osei is quoted as saying that, “cannabis users be seen as suffering from a disease.” I think this statement is made out of malice, ignorance and it lacks credibility and authority and should be ignored because the discourse on legalisation must be based on logical facts and reasons and not perceptions or opinionated. We would suggest he carries out more deep research to know the benefits. At this point, law enforcement agencies should be counselled to further stop making an arrest of cannabis users and the move towards decriminalisation is sped up. Let us not forget that these users we are talking about are law-abiding and taxpaying citizens who go about carrying out their normal duties without obstructing peace or causing harm to others. They are scholars with dreams and the only crime they commit is by using a plant of nature.
In the constitution of Ghana, it is written there that, an individual’s right should not be infringed upon and that every man has the right to do what he/she wants to, as long as it doesn’t harm a next man. So the question is, why are people jailed for it? The constitution governs or set the basis to which we abide and uphold. Various claims by some people that, using it can cause mental illness has not been proven scientifically and neither supported by any empirical evidence..
We, the Rastafari council of Ghana, is now calling on His Excellency, the president Nana Ado Dankwa Akuffo Addo and his administration, all political actors and Ghanaians to ignore the misleading statements and assertions without evidence and proof from the head of Ghana Mental Health Association. The Rastafari Council of Ghana therefore affirms our stand for ‘decriminalisation’, ‘nationalisation’, before ‘legalisation’, of cannabis in Ghana. We propose a national commission to be set up and to open deliberations as a matter of urgency. The Rastafari Council is more than willing to support with resource persons and render expert advice to make this happen.
The Rastafari Council Ghana.
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