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by Charles Ayitey, at 12:20 pm, June 28, 2016, News

Ghana Debates Decriminalizing Use of Cannabis

Leassomante/Deviant Art

The question of decriminalising the use of cannabis in Ghana has sparked heated debates among health, policy, and advocacy groups and members of the general public. The latest statement comes from the Mental Health Authority (MHA), GhanaWeb reports. MHA Chief Executive Officer and leading psychiatrist at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital Dr. Akwasi Osei has argued that if ‘wee’ (as it is nicknamed in Ghana) were decriminalised, it poses potentially grave mental health hazards to users.

“If you take Marijuana in your teens when the brain is actively developing, you interfere with your ability to be motivated adequately, to judge adequately,” he recently told Joy News.

In a publication on Spiegel.de, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan argued for the need to decriminalise the use of cannabis. Should personal drug use be legalised, Annan predicted that several healthy policies and reforms would be put in place naturally, for the tracing and surveillance of such drugs.

“We have to look at regulation and public education rather than the total suppression of drugs, which we know will not work. The steps taken successfully to reduce tobacco consumption (a very powerful and damaging addiction) show what can be achieved. It is regulation and education, not the threat of prison, which has cut the number of smokers in many countries. Higher taxes, restrictions on sale and effective anti-smoking campaigns have delivered the right results,” he argues.

Commenters on the GhanaWeb article mostly sided against legalising cannabis. Several suggested that Ghana ought not to follow Western nations like the United States that are relaxing its laws against marijuana. One thought the benefits of fibers made from cannabis could be considered while keeping other uses illegal. In fact, marijuana cultivation has become a profitable business in rural Ghana. Just a few commenters supported legalisation, including one who chastised people for judging the value of cannabis without investigating it and argued “social media is causing more damage to the development of teenage brains.”

In the meantime, Ghana’s Narcotics Drug Law is strictly against the cultivating, using, importing or exporting any narcotic drug without a licence from the Health Ministry as culprits are said to face a jail term of not less than ten years.

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