Featured, Law & Politics, Thought Leadership

High Heavens: The Political Economy of Cannabis in Nigeria

 

“Legalise it! Don’t criticise it! Legalise it! And I will advertise it”- Peter Tosh

 

Cannabis is a topic everyone discusses but very few would understand the discussion because the bulk of what is known about the plant has been presented from tinted narratives  There are established stereotypes which cut across religious, moral, socio-cultural and political viewpoints. Thus, religions would often argue against legalisation(which is not the main topic here) as they actually argue against all intoxicants.

 

In Nigeria for instance, a country where well over 90 percent of the population believe in one form of religious worship or the other there is still massive sale of other intoxicants such as alcohol which these same religions forbid. According to a report released by a global market research group named Global Data, 12.28 liters are consumed by each Nigerian on the average within a year. There are presently 8 functional breweries in Nigeria and there is a 17.72 million hl/a capacity. Nigeria leads Africa this way in alcohol consumption and since Africa has shown the greatest increase in Alcohol consumption, Nigeria should following this logic and barring other considerations lead the world in consumption.

 

This reference and brief detour to alcohol would serve two purposes. First is to show the hypocrisy of religions or their adherents when it comes to keeping this aspect of the faith. Second, the purpose is to express the potentials of a legal intoxicant market. If 12.28 liters is multiplied by just 15 million drinkers, 184,200,000 liters of alcohol would have been sold. At 200 Naira for a liter of beer. 36 billion, 840 million would have moved through the economy for sale of beer alone.

 

While there exists moral, socio-cultural and political viewpoints to the Cannabis topic. It shall suffice to discuss only the religious view as being hypocritical. The moral and other views are all not long-term measures to influence the discussion as they are now being largely discarded around the world in the making of legislation.  The political view may only be broached as this piece continues.

 

In California USA, statistics show that 2.75 billion USD has been made from the legalisation of cannabis. California is just a state. A lot of other states in USA also have their huge figures to show. If the amount California makes from Cannabis is converted to Naira, it would be 1 trillion, 3 billion and 750 million Naira. This would be sufficient to sponsor the  budgets of several states in the country. It can sufficiently sponsor the budget of 15 states combined. It can also in alternate use provide enough revenue for areas such as Education(605,795,857,907), Judiciary(100,000,000,000), Defence(567,433,895,517), Ministry of Petroleum Resources(74,090,670,305)and Foreign Affairs( alongside several others. It is worthy of note that National Salaries, Wages and Incomes Commission requires 955,032,005 and this can be shouldered in one fell swoop by the sales made in California). Pension and Gratuities cost 190,032,144,766. This can also come into the fold should the amount of marijuana sales in California enter into the Nigerian economy as Naira.

 

The population of California stands at 39.54 million and this is very little as five times more people live in Nigeria. If Nigeria taps into the global wave of legalisation that struck recently again in South Africa and Canada, the amount that would be made from this would suffice to do a lot of things and ease the burden on oil which has supported our economy as the lone revenue generation means. Oil provides 2.2 million barrel daily multiplied by the current cost of 65 USD per barrel leading to a daily 143 million income from oil according to facts provided by BudgiT. Considering we have used figures from only California, Nigeria should be able to make a far larger income from this plant. The Nigerian variety is again renowned worldwide for its efficacy and a market of high demand worldwide is only being held back by some laws.

 

While these laws hold the market down, Nigerian politicians and capital investors into the black market of hard drugs are the ones who make the gains the country should rather do and they still remain invisible. For their risk however, they can suffer jail terms as the drug is prohibited in Nigeria under the Indian Hemp Act of 1966 and the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1935.

 

With these massive margins of financial profit, it is common knowledge that a huge turnover for little investment would mean there is some big risk or repercussion to be expected. The fears are in youth delinquency, violence and crime, immorality and mental health problems. Well, one needs to look at figures from countries that have already legalised and then know if these fears are well founded. In California still, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice “marijuana decriminalization in California has not resulted in harmful consequences for teenagers, such as increased crime, drug overdose, driving under the influence, or school dropout. In fact, California teenagers showed improvements in all risk areas after reform.” The fears of mental health are also nonexistent with California and Amsterdam(the 6th most peaceful city in the world) both not reflecting massive increase in issues of mental health as was anticipated.

 

There is a necessity for a framework that protects people all the same and this can be done through;

 

regulation (e.g., licensing, wholesale/retail operator regulations);

product safety (e.g., pesticides, uniform dosing, child safe packaging);

business/industry issues (e.g. home growing, limits on numbers of plants, production safety);

enforcement (e.g., DUI, product diversion, trafficking, preventing youth access);

product consumption (e.g., smoked, vaporized, edibles, oil);

prevention/harm reduction (e.g., inappropriate/risky use, adolescent use, pregnancy);

money/taxation (e.g., state use of revenue generated, regulation/taxation/tax collection of all-cash business, issues created by federal banking laws); and

public information/education (e.g., prevention, establishing social norms/beliefs, acculturation to the new legalized or decriminalized status of cannabis).

 

This piece does not expressly call for the legalisation of marijuana but only tries to examine the benefits, the routes to its attainment and why our present stereotypes against it may be wrong. There are still several matters to consider and they extend across the data available to ensure regulation, the dangers that may not be presently envisaged, traffic use regulation, abuse and cultural reception or stigma for users amidst several other issues which should equally be considered.

 

This piece has merely tried to see if there are financial benefits from legalisation of which there are. The political economy of cannabis favours the Nigeria economy but there is lacking the confidence with which to stamp full endorsement of legalisation. A danger may be lurking somewhere still.

 

It is anticipated that Nigeria will key in on the global wave of legalisation as the issue is already starting to gather momentum following promises by Omoyele Sowore to do this should he emerge as President in the next election in 2019. Should he not emerge, the financial gains to be made will attract pressure for legalisation especially to the next senate.

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