Just when we were sure that we had seen it all, former President Olusegun Obasanjo speaks in defence of marijuana.
The one time president of Nigeria has spoken up against the decriminalization of marijuana in the country believe it or not.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy, a group of eminent world leaders, has called for a rethink on drugs policy.
BizAfricaDaily reports that the group released a new report shunning the stigmatization of drugs is hindering effective policy-making, arguing that governments should be talking about ‘harm reduction’ rather than criminalisation.
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Decriminalization of weed
While speaking with BBC Newsday, Obasanjo, who is the chairman of the West Africa Drugs Commission and a signatory to the report said:
“It is essentially a call for what we call decriminalization. If a young man tries to experiment with a wrap of marijuana for instance & because of that we put him in jail" he said.
“I was in prison as a political prisoner & I interacted with these people, some of them just for being caught with a wrap of Marijuana, they’re put in jail. They came out of jail more hardened, more hardened criminals than when they went in. Whereas, if they have been treated as they should be treated & if they need attention, they’ll be given attention.
“They will be looked after, given a clean needle like it’s been done in some parts of Africa already. Harm reduction & safe places where they can listen to people, they can get attention, they can get counsel. This is the sort of thing we are talking about." further said Obasanjo.
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Legalization of marijuana in Lesotho
Lesotho recently became the first African country to grant a marijuana license it announced in September 2017.
This move makes sense for Lesotho which has a population of just 2 million people. It is landlocked and surrounded by its more famous neighbour South Africa.
Cannabis is the main cash crop of Lesotho. It's climate and vegetation create the perfect conditions for the growth of cannabis. As a matter of fact, most of the marijuana in South Africa is gotten from Lesotho.
This move by Lesotho signals the growth of marijuana in Africa. A decade ago, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released a report on "Cannabis In Africa".
In the report, 38 million Africans within the ages of 18-64 use marijuana. This number would have surely increased by 2017.
Marijuana culture in Nigeria
Marijuana culture is big in Nigeria with youths indulging in the herb. It is now very much of youth culture unlike what prevailed in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
In January 2017, the UNODC suggested that 14.3% of Nigeria's population smokes cannabis making it the third highest consumption rate in the world. Iceland and the United States of America were ranked first and second respectively.
Now African countries Ghana, Malawi and Zimbabwe are making moves to legalize marijuana.