Proponents exaggerating medicinal benefits of cannabis: NDLEA

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The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has said that the medicinal and industrial benefits of cannabis are being blown out of proportion by activists in contrast to the serious public health challenges that the substance poses to the country. 

Speaking on a Twitter space themed “CANNABIS: HEALTH OR WEALTH?” organised by the NDLEA, Femi Babafemi, spokesman of the agency, argued that activists who promote the legalisation of the substance by only discussing the benefits are “promoting misinformation.”

“I know there are activists here who want to legalise the substance but are spreading misinformation by over-emphasising the benefits of the drug. As of today, cannabis is a drug with no currently accepted medicinal use according to a study by the UN commission on narcotics,” he said. 

Mr Babafemi did not clarify whether his assertion was specific to Nigeria or not, but medical practitioners who participated in the space promptly debunked his claim saying that several pharmaceutical companies have made use of the substance, which has aided the treatment of serious health issues such as cancer and childhood leprosy. 

Mr Babafemi also argued that the drug fuels crimes, insurgency and terrorism across the country. 

“Some of these kidnappers, insurgents, and terrorists, when their hideouts are raided, we see traces of these drugs in their den. And when they are kept for a while without the drugs, they start showing symptoms of withdrawal which means that this drug is a major catalyst to their activities,” he added. 

The pioneer of the conversation and candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the 2023 general election, Omoyele Sowore, re-emphasised his party’s position on the decriminalisation of the substance. 

“Our position is that we want to contribute to the global $3 billion dollar industry. It is beyond exportation. We want to own the value chain and create a diverse source of revenue from the substance. We want to boot our pharmaceutical research and our clothing and textile industry. I even recently heard of bricks made from these very resourceful plants,” he said. 

While cannabis remains illegal in all parts of the country, the NDLEA, in recent times, has shifted its focus from outright prosecution of personal use and possession of the substance, which is a criminal offence, to long-term means of curbing the use of the drug, such as public education and rehabilitation services for addicted users.

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