Rather than being pro-active, we have turned a blind-eye and pretend to be oblivious of the situation.
Using marijuana without a doctor’s prescription or supervision is dangerous. And this is what prevails in the black market, where consumers have no access to medical prescription but simply heed to advice of other users in the black market. The outcomes have often been negative and a detriment to national progress.
The law enforcement agencies, particularly the police service have to spend part of their limited budget in raids on areas purported to be grounds of marijuana black market. And it must be added that this exercise has now become a routine —the market is still booming. The raids have not been successful in squeezing out the marijuana black market.
We [Ghana] continue to scream about the influx of stoned youths who are using marijuana. Many of these youths with productive capacities have been prosecuted for minor marijuana-related offenses, some are even on remand with no date in sight for their official court hearing.
We worry and fixate on the future of the country. Yet we remain adamant to have an open dialogue on the subject, we are failing to think of forward-looking policies to solve the problem. It is only a handful of public officials who have had the confidence to broach the issue.
So, what is Ghana waiting for? Why have the country not considered legalized marijuana for medicinal purpose? A legal industry for medicinal marijuana is a giant step in flushing out the marijuana black market with its attendant problems. Consumers will no longer rely on supplies from the black market with no reliable information on the product they are consuming. Certainly, a reduction in marijuana related mental cases is highly plausible.
It is also instructive to note that not all consumers of marijuana are recreational users. Some are nursing health problems that requires the use of marijuana in measurable proportions to relieve them of symptoms of their health conditions. With a legal medicinal marijuana market, these people will receive professional healthcare with access to the right marijuana in the right proportion and prescription. Given the status quo, these users of marijuana are forced to rely on the black market which provides mostly unregulated, high-risk marijuana products for their health conditions.
The issue of legalizing medicinal marijuana should be seen fundamentally as a matter of public health and safety. Policy makers must recognize that if they remain aloof to the thriving black market, Ghanaians stand the risk of compromising their health by engaging in this market. Additionally, it is believed that revenues from the black markets go to fund criminal and other illegal activities in our societies which affects public safety. Moreover, the youth who obtain marijuana from these illicit black markets expose themselves to criminal environments. The solution lies in legalizing marijuana for medicinal use. With a legal backing for medicinal marijuana, demand in the black market is set to be reduced given that it is effectively regulated. Revenue from the legal medicinal marijuana market can be properly accounted for and contribute towards national development.
Legalizing marijuana for medicinal purpose will undercut illegal weed in the black market. It will provide a clear distinction between people using marijuana for purposes other than medicinal. This will help reduce prosecution of citizens using marijuana for health reasons. Legalizing medicinal marijuana will provide convenient, safer purchasing environments, and a greater variety of marijuana product that is well regulated.
Like some states in the United States, Ghana stands to benefit from medical tourism, if marijuana is legalized. The country will attract citizens from near-by countries who have health problems that requires the use of marijuana. Revenue will be generated with a positive externality on general healthcare services in the country. Marijuana oil production, an industry that is expanding following the legalization of marijuana in Canada is a major revenue earner through export. The oil has health benefits such as pain relief, anxiety and has been recommended by the US Food and Drugs Authority for the treatment of epilepsy. Additionally, the legal cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purpose will open-up export of marijuana byproducts. For example, the stems of marijuana plants which are used as fibre for products like T-shirts, animal feed, housing siding can be exported to countries where it’s in demand.
It’s proven that a legal medicinal marijuana industry has both positive health and economic gains for a country. Talk of job creation, tax revenue to the government, foreign exchange earnings, treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, anti-psychotic effects for schizophrenia.
Legalization of medicinal marijuana is now widespread—its legalized in countries like Canada, Australia, Netherland, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Czech Republic, Colombia, Uruguay— and it’s no longer an experiment. Many countries across the globe have enacted laws for medicinal use of the plant. The horrors that activists against legal medicinal marijuana hold—mental illness, chaos in our society, reckless driving—have not been recorded in countries that have legalized medicinal marijuana. What research has rather found is a decrease in black market drug dealers.
Authored by Felix Ankrah and Isaac Bortey both Research Staff of Ho Node.
Ho Node is an innovation hub that provides digital skills training, business support to Startups, Research and Advocacy on emerging policy issues.