Rings of marijuana smoke are not going away from Nigeria any time soon. They pour from the lips of big-name singers and motor-boys, drivers and teenagers.
And voices largely on the sidelines and in support of marijuana want their pastime recognised as less dangerous than cigarette. They also want it made legal. Late afrobeat maestro Fela Anikulapo Kuti made no bones about smoking Indian hemp.
And when his son Seun gave an interview, it wasn’t his musical genius that made headlines. It was an assertion that he smoked Indian hemp to relax. Except, you could be forgiven for not recognising the thing at stake is cannabis. A plethora of names describe marijuana in Nigeria—ganja, weed, we-we, igbo, gbanna, joint, rizlar, ginger, grass, roll, witch.
Exactly when cannabis smoking took root is difficult to pin down. What’s not difficult to get is that its use is growing rapidly. It shows in how many square hectares are devoted to cultivating the plant.
More than 95% of the entire drugs haul—more than 5,000 kilos—by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency last year was cannabis.The case for smoking marijuana is building on the back of scattered evidence of some medicinal benefit of the plant. But the voices pushing it are very muffled. Use of cannabis for medicinal purposes is old, but is still illegal in most countries.
Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Canada, Switzerland have decriminalised pot smoking for recreational purposes in hopes of frustrating underground markets that support trade in drugs. And at least two American states have recently passed legislation allowing cannabis or its derivatives to be used medicinally in low doses.
Cannabis may have benefits in treatment of a range of conditions, according to medical literature. But it is the social impacts of cannabis that provides more ammunition for ganja backers. The evidence is selective: that cannabis doesn’t do the sort of damage that tobacco does—especially lung functions.