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TALKING DRUM: Mr. President, ‘Unu wan mi fi tell unu fi legalize ganja?’

NOTE: I use marijuana and ganja interchangeably to mean ‘weed’ in this piece.

Apart from his family, I think nobody knew his real name. He was nicknamed Kilo, a man who served as a barber somewhere in Sunynai, the capital of the Bono Region.

In Kilo’s barbering shop were about seven calico-cloth-made caps. They [caps] were usually temporary gifts to his clients. Clients who were mainly outsiders who went to Kilo’s salon to have a shave.

“Senior, for this haircut I have just given you, I must give you one of my caps. You must return it when your hair grows,” Kilo would say to his unsuspecting clients.

The man [Kilo] could not separate his pleasure for smoking marijuana also known as ganja from his job as a barber. So, getting him shave your hair meant giving you a ‘killer’ haircut. The story of Kilo and many others nationwide and probably across the globe have demonized ganja. In the local parlance, the herb is even referred to as ↄboronsam tawa – the devil’s herb.

Ganja, indeed, is so powerful that it could let a sane wo/man act weirdly or at worse, go mad. In Sunynai, at a marijuana base, a smoker in the company of his friends ‘lost’ his left leg after puffing on the herb. Hearsay had it that the unnamed smoker stood [upright] while he bent his left leg to touch a mango tree under which they smoked. It was after the ‘madness’ had taken over his head that he told his colleagues – who foolishly believed him – his left leg was missing!

Last week, the Rastafarian Council of Ghana was in the news after the Ghana Police Service thwarted their resolve to embark on a demonstration to get ganja decriminalized in the country. This generated a buzz as to whether it is right we legalized ganja or not. The issue has had the nation sharply divided on ‘yes’ and ‘no’ lines. For Professor Joseph Bediako Asare, a retired chief psychiatrist, his answer to the debate on legalising the herb is a big NO! That, Ghana’s marijuana is of high grade and that ligalising it will mean seeing many mad wo/men on our streets.

Professor Asare’s position was endorsed by Mr. Gabriel Bernaku being the National Chairman of the Coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations in Health. The two granted interviews to 3FM News.

Whereas I understand their fears and concerns, I think it is about time we sat down to take a relook at the herb gifted to mankind by God. The million question is, “Is ganja only for smoking”?

“Most people think cannabis [marijuana] is a plant you smoke. My point is, it is much more than that,” says 88-year-old Professor Emeritus Raphael Mechoulam of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as reported by latimes.com under the headline, ‘Israel is banking on cannabis as its next big industry’. He is credited for being one of the pioneers of researching into the medical use of marijuana in Israel – God’s nation.

The report continued, “Experimenting on his newly acquired stash, Mechoulam was able to isolate and identify tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main mind-altering component of cannabis, and cannabidiol, or CBD, which has therapeutic properties but does not get the user high. He was building on work by Roger Adams, an early 20th century American chemist, who first identified certain chemical components of cannabis in the 1940s but whose efforts were slammed shut by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.”

If Professor Mechoulam, at his age, still spends sleepless nights researching into medical use of marijuana, then it should tell you he is up to something spectacular.

“The ailments that Mechoulam and his associates say are being treated effectively with cannabis-based medicines include epilepsy, osteoporosis, obesity and all sorts of pain,” latimes.com says.

It is the fool, the popular adage says, who does not change his mind. So, in 2013, writing under the headline, “Why I changed my mind on weed,” CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta apologized for previously kicking against prospects of ganja.

“Long before I began this project [referring to a documentary], I had steadily reviewed the scientific literature on medical marijuana from the United States and thought it was fairly unimpressive. Reading these papers five years ago, it was hard to make a case for medicinal marijuana. I even wrote about this in a TIME magazine article, back in 2009, titled ‘Why I would Vote No on Pot’,” he said in his apology article.

Last year, I chanced on Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s documentary titled Weed on YouTube and what I saw was revealing. In the said documentary, this is what Dr. Sanjay Gupta shared on his findings: “In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works. Take the case of Charlotte Figi who I met in Colorado [in the US]. She started having seizures soon after birth. By age 3, she was having 300 [seizures] a week, despite being on seven different medications. Medical marijuana has calmed her brain, limiting her seizures to 2 or 3 per month.”

Indeed, Dr. Sanjay Gupta was right opining that they [Americans] have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States. It is not only Americans misled on marijuana. My people, Ghanaians, have had their own share. In particular, churches – pastors for that matter – have for long demonized and continue to paint the herb pitch black. They do so without making the effort to research into the issue, only basing on hearsay.

Medical use of ganja is but one of the many uses of the herb. Mention could be made of marijuana playing an active role in the manufacturing of [some] creams, cloths and even for fuel.

If you live in a country where most citizens together with their government’s main concern is to wake up every day, get some banku or fufu to eat and engage in partisan politics of NDC-NPP gibberish without finding solutions to even the filth killing them, it would be hard for such a group of people to buy into the idea of decriminalizing ganja. No wonder that after many years of malaria killing our active labour, it is the white man coming to us with a malaria vaccine in 2019. Nothing concerns us!

But, I am here to make my position known that we must decriminalize and legalised the herb. The Nana Akufo Addo government and other subsequent governments must ensure we have a state-controlled-farm of marijuana cultivation coupled with a team of scientists [researchers] reviewing the claims by the Israeli weed industry and improve on such. This could possibly stabilize our economy as Ghana would become medical tourism for persons who would want a cure to their sickness the marijuana way.

Then, after the decriminalization and legalization would come another hurdle to cross. Must we allow people to smoke it [anyhow]? My response is no. Currently, in Israel where marijuana is on top of the agenda, it is still illegal for people to smoke it.

Nonetheless, if we feel that we have decriminalized it and would give persons who would want to smoke it their right, then I have a suggestion. Marijuana joints – each – must be set up in all our [military] barracks across the country. One lion’s den [barrack], one marijuana joint. Here, you go to the proposed joint with your Ghana Card – also proving you are above 18 years – and you have the chance to smoke the herb say once a month. Remember that, we cannot entrust our corrupt police to handle this task.

This suggestion [marijuana joints] should tell you that although fire is good, it could be bad, hence, the need for stringent measures in place. Did you know that when it comes to gun crime in the world, Japan has one of the lowest rates? That, in 2014, there were just six gun deaths compared to 33,599 in the US? “What is the secret?” asked the BBC in article titled “How Japan has almost eradicated gun crime.”

“If you want to buy a gun in Japan, you need patience and determination. You have to attend an all-day class, take a written exam and pass a shooting-range test with a mark of at least 95%.”

“There are also mental health and drugs tests. Your criminal record is checked and police look for links to extremist groups. Then, they check your relatives too – and even your work colleagues. And as well as having the power to deny gun licenses, police also have sweeping powers to search and seize weapons,” the BBC article says.

If you care to know, in Japan, I learnt in that article that you can only buy fresh cartridges by returning the spent cartridges you bought on your last visit.

This is how Ghana’s laws must work. Guns are not illegal in Japan but the system will ‘frustrate’ you owing one since it could cause mayhem. We must wake up as a country and act as responsible humans.

I do not follow what I see or read blindly. Before you get my trust, it means I have painstakingly researched into who you are and what you do. I have done an extensive search on the good uses of marijuana and we cannot brush the herb under the carpet just because it is getting people mad.

If we would let common sense have its way, no single person will get mad out of legalising marijuana. When you are done reading this piece, kindly go to YouTube, search for Kofi Annan by Blakk Rasta. Listen to that song and send me your feedback afterwards.

By Solomon Mensah

The writer is a broadcast journalist with TV3/3FM. Views expressed here are solely his and do not, in anyway, reflect the editorial policy of his organization.

Email: nehusthan4@yahoo.com

Twitter: @aniwaba

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