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Rastafari Council: Legalise ‘wee’ trade in Ghana

The Rastafari Council of Ghana has called for the decriminalisation of cannabis as Ghana joins the rest of the world to mark International Day of Marijuana. The group also wants a legal regime to allow people to trade marijuana freely, without restriction.

Marijuana Day, marked on April 20 every year, has been set aside globally by marijuana advocates to call for the legalisation of the herb.

The Council, in a statement signed by Khex Pongo, Chairman of the Committee on Advocacy, Rastafari Council of Ghana, also called for the formation of a commission to regulate the trade in marijuana in Ghana.

The Council said it has submitted a petition to the Parliamentary sub-committee on Defence and Interior to deal with the issue of marijuana use in the country.

Read full statement below:

RASTAFARI COUNCIL OF GHANA CALLS FOR DECRIMINALIZATION OF MARIJUANA 0N THE OCCASION OF THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF MARIJUANA – APRIL 20, 2016 (4/20)

Today marks the International Day of Marijuana dubbed 4/20, a day set globally by marijuana advocates to call for the legalization of the herb. The Rastafari Council of Ghana deems it appropriate to issue this statement to commemorate this day and add its voice to the calls for decriminalisation of cannabis in Ghana.

In contributing to the debate on the marijuana issue, the Rastafari Council presented a petition to the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) who redirected us to the Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Defense and Interior. We have since submitted a petition to the Sub-Committee and await their response.

Former U.N Secretary General Kofi Annan has said “Drugs are dangerous, but current narcotics policies are an even bigger threat because punishment is given a greater priority than health and human rights. It’s time for regulations that put lives and safety first….Policy based on common assumptions and popular sentiments can become a recipe for mistaken prescriptions and misguided interventions…..Nowhere is this divorce between rhetoric and reality more evident than in the formulation of global drug policies, where too often emotions and ideology rather than evidence have prevailed.”

Kofi Annan further suggests: “By looking carefully at the evidence from the United States, we now know that legalizing the use of cannabis for medical purposes has not, as opponents argued, led to an increase in its use by teenagers. By contrast, there has been a near tripling of American deaths from heroin overdoses between 2010 and 2013, even though the law and its severe punishments remain unchanged.”

The medical benefits of marijuana are many and we urged Parliament in our petition to take a cue from global developments to access the medicinal properties of marijuana which have been heralded by former anti marijuana campaigners like Dr Sanjay Gupta a Medical Correspondent of CNN. Among other properties, the therapeutic value of marijuana has been well established. It has been successfully used for pain relief, control of nausea, appetite stimulation and relief from the symptoms of HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, PTSD and other ailments. The herb could prove useful in a variety of other applications if patients are allowed to use it.

The economic value of marijuana cannot be overstated. In addition to its various uses in many industries from the automobile to fashion industries, it can also be used as a cash crop yielding much needed revenue to our ailing economy. The examples of Uruguay where its sale and cultivation is controlled by the state to the coffee shops of Amsterdam and American states like Colorado where marijuana sale is yielding huge revenues provides crucial learning points for us. Here in Ghana, decriminalization and state regulation of the industry will yield revenue streams that will support district, municipal and metropolitan authorities as well as the national government. Such a development will lead to the state making revenue from the marijuana trade.

In view of the foregoing, the Rastafari Council strongly supports the calls for decriminalization of the herb and suggests the formation of a commission to regulate the trade in marijuana.

In decriminalising marijuana, Ghana would make a serious impact on crime. Decriminalising will influence the way in which the police treat the young men of this country when confronting them during police operations. Cannabis is illegal and many young men use it. The truth is, that out of the number of young men who use cannabis, only a very small percentage of them are actually involved in violent criminal activity, their only crime being the possession of a controlled substance; a victimless non-violent crime. Surely, an individual with 5GHS worth of vegetative material on his or her person cannot be considered a danger to anyone.

Decriminalising will help the police to prioritise their operations. The police spend time and money searching for marijuana plantations, where they find themselves in isolated areas for long periods, far removed from populated areas, so that when a serious crime is being committed, they are way out of reach.

Decriminalising will assist the justice system by reducing the number of drug cases the courts have to deal with, as no longer will cannabis offences require the courts to deliberate over them. This in turn saves the courts valuable time in dealing with more serious cases, easing the backlog of existing cases, and saving the taxpayers money that would have been spent on prosecuting individuals for frivolous offences. Decriminalising will have a positive impact on the overcrowding problem being experienced at the prison facilities in Ghana as all persons imprisoned for cannabis offences can be freed by way of an amnesty.

The taxpayer will no longer have to feed people in prison who should not be there in the first place and who could have been making a positive contribution to society i.e marijuana user. It costs the country an estimated 4GHC daily to house an inmate. In these hard economic times, saving this much money is prudent.

Thank you.
Khex Pongo
Chairman
Committee on Advocacy
Rastafari Council of Ghana

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