The Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu and Senator Dino Melaye are not new to courting controversy—this time, it is about legalising marijuana (or cannabis).
Both took a conference marking the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking to chart their stance on whether Nigeria should legalise marijuana use.
“There is no reason why Nigeria shouldn’t legalise marijuana,” said Akeredolu, in words presented by his special adviser, Boye Oyewumi. “Some African countries are already exporting medical cannabis worth billions of dollars.”
Akeredolu had previously urged the federal government to consider legalising marijuana — citing its medicinal properties and market potential. “Ondo State is the largest producer of marijuana plants in Nigeria.
We are not asking the government to set up bars where people come and abuse cannabis, rather we are asking the government to grant us license to cultivate medical marijuana for export.”
Dr Williams Ebiti, a consultant at Milestone Rehabilitation Foundation, notes the medicinal benefits of marijuana but says staunch policy against it poses more harm.
“Marijuana grows everywhere all over the country and the policy on drugs is even more harmful than the drugs itself,” he said.
“Legalization of marijuana is not going to make it unavailable, but it’s going to make the Government have control over it, rather than put it in the hands of drug barons and cartel.”
Senator Dino Melaye however, opposed moves to legalise marijuana, not minding its economic benefits.
“There are other diverse areas that can generate revenue for the country, taking agriculture for an example,” he said in comments delivered by his personal assistant, Femi Obalemo.
“The 10% of Nigerians consuming marijuana are endangering lives of the remaining 90% of the population,” he added. Up to 10.6 million Nigerians use cannabis — 9.3 million men and 1.3 million women- according to drug use statistics released by the National Bureau of Statistics.
The conference, by the Vanguard Against Drug Abuse, hosted a debate where participants insisted the country wasn’t mature enough to consider legalising marijuana. The federal agriculture ministry toes the same line.
“Nigeria is not yet ready to move at this direction,” said Dele Olorunfemi, deputy director for extension and communication, representing the federal agriculture ministry at the conference.
“We, Nigerians are good in breaking what seems unbreakable, the problem of legalizing marijuana at this time might cause it its regulations and enforcement. If we can get the enforcement right, then we can start thinking of legalizing.”