Recreational Cannabis Use In Ghana

@mawut0r |

Illustration taken from USC News

I never wanted to write on this topic knowing that this has been one of the controversial topics in Ghana, and even worldwide. But at this point, I feel the need to add my voice to the discourse, not to debate wrong and right, but to help in the evolution of our collective intelligence.

In this article, I will argue why it will be counter-productive to legalize the recreational use of cannabis, commonly known as marijuana or weed, in the present economic climate. Nonetheless, I wish to let it be known, that I do not believe that recreational cannabis use is absolutely bad. Everything that the Lord made under this sun is good, however, we need to exercise wisdom in dealing with such a powerful plant.

For starters, I believe every human being should have the right to use any herb as they please. Cannabis use and possession, although illegal in Ghana, is widespread in the country's high-life culture, and the new alternative culture of gangster and rebellion borrowed from the west. This I believe is okay, because the cannabis community knows its place, and they have informal structures that help keep things under control. For example, nobody can just wake up and decide to "push" (sell) weed. You have to be part of the community, and they know who to buy from, and who the competitors are. The cannabis community is tight-knit, more thoughtful, and united than people think, so it is sufficiently self-controlled in my opinion.

However, I believe that legalizing recreational use will be counter-productive and disastrous in the long term, for Ghana's economy, and the larger workforce. Why do I say this? The simple answer is that we do not have the systems to control the supply chain and make sure that all stakeholders involved, including the users, win in the long term.

The worst-case scenario I foresee, with the present economic system, is that, if recreational cannabis use is allowed, there will be an influx of mercenary capital, that will exploit the average user for capital gains. Mercenary capital refers to for-profit organizations whose sole aim is to make profits even at the expense of society's well-being.

Mercenary capital will control the supply chain, pricing out local farmers, and creating illicit strains in the process that will get users hooked. Because users will keep buying when they're hooked. Even in developed countries with "better" controls on recreational use, there have been numerous cases of illicit strains, sometimes poisonous and deadly if taken in high dosage, infiltrating the market.

If this happens in Ghana, we risk losing the majority of our workforce, who will be the main users of recreational cannabis. Without tight regulation, the country could be susceptible to bio-weapon attacks under the guise of foreign cannabis strains.

To legalize recreational cannabis use, we will need sate-of-the art rehabs in every district across the country, to deal with cases related to first-time use, and abuse. Moreover, we will need a well-functioning quality control authority to oversee the supply chain. Farmers must purchase seeds directly from the authority to ensure that only approved strains are grown and sold. Ideally, the authority should approve strains high in CBDs (medicinal component) and low in THC (psychoactive component). With all this in place, regular pharmacies can serve as dispensaries, however, it will be impossible to impose an age restriction.

All these structures and enforcement of the regulations will be expensive (mercenary capital will take advantage) and will not be cost-effective in the long term even if you factor in taxes and other economic incentives. You will notice that I have failed to mention the cultivation of cannabis for industrial purposes. This is because we cannot compete with developed economies like the United States, which already have the first mover advantage.

In a nutshell, I am saying that illegal cannabis use in Ghana is already self-controlled by the community. Whoever decides to get involved (most times) knows what they're getting into. Making it legal means that the country will now have to spend more on ensuring that it is widely controlled and well-regulated. Cannabis is a powerful herb, and if we must legalize it, then it must be done within the confines of a powerful structure, which the country is currently incapable of providing.