Community pharmacists and legalizing marijuana

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woman pharmacist

I encountered the whiff of marijuana (aka Igbo, ganja, cannabis) very early in life though I never even smoked a cigarette. Was I seven years old or nine? I can’t be sure, can’t remember really. But I was in primary school and as we walked to school every day, we encountered some ragged red-eyed young men in some corners of the town puffing away as if it was the greatest thing to do in the world at that time of the day and no one could do anything about it. Hmmm! How did I know it was Igbo they were smoking? Well, some peers knew better than others and volunteered the information to neophytes like us. In the boarding house while in secondary school students knew the Igbo smokers, the very bad boys who often sneaked out to the cinema house and returned at midnight. These days I hear it is routine for teenagers to smoke that hard stuff! A pity, if you asked me!

Very early too, it was drummed into our small heads at home and at school that if we as much as took a whiff of Igbo we would run mad and parade the streets like those vagrants we used to see in the streets of Sapele or Warri or Port Harcourt or Ovu junction; you know those guys who never took ill though they lived harsh unsheltered lives. That it was only a question of time those ganja-smoking boys would run mad, not insanity, just run mad. Run mad carried a stronger warning than insanity. To be sure, one also grew up in a home where positive thoughts about marijuana were never entertained, in fact, banned and considered an act of taboo!

This was another dimension to the Igbo story. And there was Fela always in the public space or Bob Marley with a ‘giant spliff’ making beautiful songs. They never ran mad except as they used to say all those guys going around with dreadlocks doing strange, odd things were mad too! The cheeky Peter Tosh added: ‘It is good for asthma/Good for tuberculosis, /Even umara composis’ and ‘Birds eat it/Ants love it/Fowls eat it/Goats love to play with it! 

All these thoughts flooded my memory when as a guest of the Association I attended a scientific session of Association of Community Pharmacists (ACPN) in Abeokuta last week piloted by the calm, energetic and level-headed Pharmacist Samuel Adekola, Chairman of the Association. I was one of those given an award of excellence by the Association on the recommendation of former students of mine, led by the ebullient Hon Segun Adedipe whom I taught some 35 years ago, who opined that I made a significant contribution to their lives. Of course I was grateful. It is one of the few awards in Nigeria that you do not pay for!

I was intrigued by the arguments; especially the ones put up by Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), a man whom I respect for his firm commitment to the welfare of the people of Ondo State through his bold stance on grazing, using the platform of Southern Governors Conference. He had argued earlier in the year that ‘cannabis is a multi-billion naira industry that can help diversify the Nigerian Economy if judiciously utilised”. There is sound logic to legalizing marijuana for economic purposes. In other words, let us legalize the export of marijuana; let us make it available to foreign and local pharmaceuticals for producing medication instead of the millions of dollars spent on importing drugs made from the product. If it is a goldmine for the people of Ondo and Delta States (Abbi town) and Nigeria, why not legalize it for export and medicinal purposes?

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