Popularly known as weed or ganja, marijuana (Cannabis Sativa) is the most popular hard drug in the world. According to the 2005 United Nations World Drug Report, it has an estimated $141.80 Billion global market with 164 million people actively using it. While no country in Africa has yet officially legalized cannabis, its highly tolerated in about 18 countries with Mozambique topping the list.
Ghana has been cited as the number one consumer of marijuana in Africa and third largest in the world according to a 2014 United Nations report.
Ghana is a small nation located in the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. It has enjoyed political stability and economic growth since 1992. However, cannabis has become an important cash crop to many poor farmers due to increasing inequality between urban and rural areas . It’s usually inter-cropped with cocoa, cassava or okra to conceal it from authorities’.
Agbogbloshie and Tudu, well known suburbs in Accra, are very notorious in this regard. In these areas, it is popularly known as “taaba, ntampi or ganja,” and is sold by wholesalers to retailers in the various communities outside Tudu.
The nation is also becoming West Africa’s leading cannabis producers where at least 50% of cannabis produced in Ghana has been destined for export. In 2012, UK Border Agency officials at Heathrow Airport seized the largest ever haul of cannabis arriving from Ghana to the UK; approximately 1.5 tonnes of the drug, valued at £4.3 million, was confiscated from three separate freight containers.
Its popularity can also be linked to it being one of the cheapest drugs. It is easy to grow as it takes between 12 to 16 weeks to cultivate. It’s packaged at Gp50 per piece, which is very affordable and is usually purchased by the ‘roll’. Sometimes the loose cannabis may be purchased, in which case the dealer will provide a rolling paper as part of the usual service. There are generally three grades available: “Marri” – low-quality, “polli” – medium-grade and “riger” – top quality.
Fight against “The ganja”
Daniel Akwasi Amankwa, who is the Divisional Supervisor for Demand Education of Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) was making a case for a drug court system in Ghana, stressing that the United States, once a leading consumer of drugs, has been successful in implementing that system. “Besides, there are over 20 countries including Australia and New Zealand which has adopted the drug court system,” he said.
Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) said despite the fight against the illicit drug, the country’s acceptance of the drug and complex networks of its pushers are making it difficult to fight it.
Beyond several attempts to arrest distributors in 2013-2014, the agency has been more engaged in media campaigns urging parents and civil society groups to get on board to fight menace.
Should it be legal ?
The Executive Secretary of the NACOB, Akrasi Sarpong, called for a national debate on legalisation of marijuana in Ghana.
Speaking in an interview with the BBC’s Sammy Darko, Mr Sarpong said that the “war” waged on marijuana in the country stands to be lost because many people believe “what you are fighting is not crime”. Take or leave it, there is “a virtual legalisation” of marijuana.
He also mentions the negative effect the fall of the Cedi has on Ghana’s economy and believes that the banned substance, if regulated, can benefit the country financially.
Some in Ghana say, gone were the days when Rastafarians ruled marijuana. The UN report continues that Ghanaians now use marijuana more than five times the worlds average.
The Ghanaian constitution speaks clearly on the use of marijuana and specifies the highest punishment for persons found guilty of its use. The constitution mandates NACOB, and, therefore, Mr. Sarpong to enforce this. His support for the legalisation of marijuana is met with a number of questions within the country.
He previously has testified and helped police prosecute suspects in relation to the use of the substance. What happens to prisoners who were incarcerated? Could he be talking on behalf of some prominent government officials who see good in the substance?
The ganja using Ghanaian community has worked to earn its position globally. If Ghana legalises the use of Marijuana, it will be the first country to officially do so in Africa.
Should marijuana be made legal in Ghana ?