Canada’s national experiment into the legalization of marijuana is the country’s biggest policy change in decades. Watching their euphoria on the news I considered its ramifications and considered several parallels to Canada and Nigeria’s health and economic systems. Pictures of pre-rolled smoke joints, cannabis body oils, face creams, ‘’green teas’’, even thoughts of cannabis-infused coca cola! The products seem endless. And words like natural, earthy, soul food, are being used. Sounds so simple and uncomplicated. It’s almost as though it isn’t the same plant called ‘’Igbo’’ in my Nigeria, where you can bag up to 15 years in prison if you get caught with it on your person. Paradoxically, Nigeria is the world’s 8th highest consumer of cannabis and you can purchase a wrap with a little as N50. My paradoxical Nigeria.
The legalization of cannabis in such a forward-thinking country such as Canada gets one reconsidering its natural beneficial uses in an organic way. That is, a legalization would definitely create a seismic explosion in Nigeria’s almost epileptic economy. The cannabis products would undergo quality checks to ensure maximum product purity, its use would be regulated and that would in turn help to contain its production and distribution by criminal elements. And best of all, Nigerians will be able to enjoy ‘’highness’’ that is not dependent on social status, electricity and costs less than a bottle of Coca-Cola!
On the other hand, legalization brings up issues like adolescent addiction, adult addiction, driving under the influence, poor work output, peer pressure, and quality of health care to manage addiction and overdose. Also, the fact that marijuana could be a gateway to other more ‘’senior’’ substances, and behavioral traits (no finger pointing here).
Marijuana’s mind-altering quality comes from the active ingredient Delta 9-THC which substitutes our natural endocannabinoids and mimics their effects. In layman terms, this means, it takes over the brain and makes everything shine!
Regular use dampens the brain’s intrinsic machinery to compensate for excessive stimulation, while chronic exposure ultimately impairs the ability to imbue value or importance to experiences that truly warrant it. Such regular neuro-adjustments hamper or derail an otherwise successful and fulfilling life. Recovery in adults can be brought about through abstinence but for adolescents, the consequences are more permanent because their brains are still undergoing development. Also scarier, are ongoing studies on the offspring of adolescent users who may be at risk of mental addiction due to the persistent change to the brain’s epigenome. (Judith Grisel/Washinton Post paraphrased)
We might ask, however, isn’t alcohol and tobacco kind of the same thing? What’s the big deal? After all, their neural adjustments all lead to dependence and cravings as well, don’t they? Well, whatever your leanings are on this conversation, you would do well to remember that the government in Nigeria is still battling with its basic primary health care system, maternal and infant mortality rates, the scourge of malaria, just to mention a few. Even the electricity I used to type this article was a miracle! I wouldn’t advise adding cannabis-induced mental health issues to its leaky basket of health woes.
Faith Ochelle is a Journalist, she writes from Abuja, Nigeria.