It was while I was in Abuja that I lost my innocence about the consumption of Indian hemp in Nigeria. I lived in a neighborhood that was just coming up. It was basically a huge construction site and the completed buildings were all new, most of them unoccupied except for the ‘mai guard.’
Going further inside the area beyond the foundations are bushes waiting to be cleared. Every evening, I noticed expensive cars heading towards that direction. Every day, the same cars.
It got me wondering. It wasn’t as if they were going there to inspect their building projects.
By now you would have guessed correctly that the men needed the relative privacy of that ‘bushy’ area to smoke their Indian hemp in peace.
Almost all of them were top civil servants, businessmen or contractors. A neighbor who knew about what was going on gave me the low down about these men.
It was a big shock to me because I’d always thought only adventurous young men, miscreants and criminals smoked it.
I have since found out that a large swathe of the population indulges in it. Most times, just for leisure. Heck, many people even use it to cook all kinds of foods.
In other words, the consumption of Indian in Nigeria is an open secret. But it is a criminal act.
Indian hemp, also known as Cannabis, goes by different names in Nigeria. What it’s called largely depends on the location of the country.
You can hear names like igbo, kanya, weed, wee-wee, and so on. Internationally, it is known as Cannabis, marijuana or Indian hemp.
The harmful effects of the drug are well known. As a matter of fact, Indian hemp is one drug whose effect on both the physical and mental state of users is most known compared to other drugs. That could be because of how common and how easy it is to get them.
On the flip side of the coin, many of those who use it claim the benefits of using or smoking it outweigh the harm it could cause by a long shot.
The legendary Afrobeat musician, Fela, was one of the most famous protagonists of marijuana. He smoked it openly in his club when he was alive. He claimed it was good for his medical condition.
The agitation for the decriminalization of marijuana is always linked to its curative functions of certain medical conditions in humans.
In some states in America where the use of Cannabis has been decriminalized, the health concerns have been the overriding reason for doing so.
In the city of Amsterdam in Holland, you can go into a shop and buy it without anybody raising an eyebrow. It was decriminalized a long time ago.
Whole countries like Uruguay, Costa Rica, Peru, Spain, Mexico, Portugal, and Estonia among others have either relaxed the law against the use of the drug or outrightly made it legal.
In July, Canada hopes to join the league of countries where the use of Indian hemp doesn’t come with the likelihood of ending up in jail if you are caught.
The moralists in Nigeria, and there are many of them, use any opportunity to remind the rest of us that one of the dangers of decriminalization would be the rising crime levels.
Apparently, smoking marijuana would increase the number of criminals in the country. Other social problems, according to them, include more drug addicts.
We all know several weed smokers are neither drug addicts nor criminals. The logic of the moralist implies that these users would suddenly become criminals if marijuana becomes legal in Nigeria.
To them, it doesn’t fly against the face of logic that many abused drugs in Nigeria are legal. But many users are not criminals.
Or using the case of Fela, he was never a criminal. Instead, he was one of the foremost human rights activists the country ever had.
Between the 1920s and early 1930s, America banned the use, sale, and transportation of alcohol. The so-called Prohibition law was enacted to safeguard the morals of the American people.
That ban saw an unprecedented rise in criminal activities in the US. It was one of the bloodiest periods in the country as criminal gangs fought to control the alcohol black market due to the scarcity of the product.
Naturally, when Prohibition ended after almost a decade, gang-related violence linked to control of alcohol trafficking disappeared because there was no money to be made from producing and selling alcohol.
This is what happens when a group of people make laws based on their religious convictions. It never ends well.
Nigeria News notes that In Nigeria today, the sale and distribution of marijuana are controlled by gangs. Turf wars are fought by gangs, also known as cultists, to control the sale in certain areas.
The security services, including the army, benefit from the activities of these gangs. Some are paid to look the other way. Some gangs even use military men or the police to help them transport their products across the country.
It is a huge industry where hundreds of millions are made daily around the country.
Let’s face it, people become criminals or commit crimes because it is in their nature or circumstances pushed them.
The politicians, men of God, lawyers, judges, civil servants who steal on a grand scale didn’t need drugs like marijuana to get them going. They saw an opportunity to steal and they took it.
Yes, legalizing the drug would see an increase in its usage. But like the experiences in other countries have shown, there wasn’t a spike in criminal activities as a result.
So why would Nigeria’s case be different if it’s legalized here. Or are the moralists saying Nigerians are different? That sounds like the kind of argument racists push forward to keep blacks down.
Okay, so I have smoked marijuana before. Not once, not twice, several times. I liked it even though it messed me up a couple of times.
I still don’t understand why I didn’t become an addict or a criminal. At least, that is what those moralists said would happen if people like me smoked it.
The reason I stopped: it’s just not in my nature to need a constant high from substances like marijuana or alcohol. There are millions of people like that in Nigeria.