Reps step down bill to ‘decriminalise’ cannabis cultivation, sale, use - AMEBO NEWSPAPERS NG.


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Reps step down bill to ‘decriminalise’ cannabis cultivation, sale, use

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The House of Representatives, on Thursday, stepped down a bill seeking to legalise the cultivation, sale and use of cannabis, also known as marijuana, for commercial purposes.

Apart from the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, and the sponsors, all those who spoke at the second reading criticised the bill.

The criticisms against the proposal forced the sponsors to demand that it should be stepped down for review, a prayer that the lawmakers unanimously granted.

The sponsors had clashed on Wednesday over the proposed legislation.

Two members of the House, Benjamin Kalu and Olumide Osoba, had sponsored separate bills seeking to amend the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act, to expand the scope of the anti-narcotics agency to issue licences for the cultivation, sale and use of weed.

The proposed pieces of legislation were harmonised and titled, ‘A Bill for an Act to Amend the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act, Cap. N30, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to Confer Additional Responsibility of the Power to Grant and Revoke Licences for the Cultivation of Cannabis (or Any of Its Three Species, Namely Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indicia and Cannabis Ruderalis) Plant for Medicinal Purposes; and for Related Matters.’

However, when the bill was up for second reading at the plenary on Wednesday, another member of the House, Miriam Onuoha, protested that the content of the bill was the same as hers.

The Cannabis Control Bill, 2020, sponsored by Onuoha, is titled, ‘A Bill for an Act to Regulate the Cultivation, Possession, Availability and Trade of Cannabis for Medical and Research Use, and Related Purposes.’

The Speaker had in his ruling asked both sides to liaise with the Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata, to identify the differences and similarities between the bills ahead of sitting on Thursday.

On Thursday, the two bills, which had different titles, were first harmonised.

While Kalu and Osoba’s maintained the same title, Onuoha’s was titled, ‘A Bill for an Act to Decriminalise the Growth and Use of Cannabis, to Establish a System for the Registration and licensing of Cannabis Growers, Users, Control to legalise the Growth, Sale and use of Cannabis and set out a Legal Framework for the Registration and Licensing of Cannabis Growers and Producers in Nigeria; and for Related Matters.’

Those who spoke against it, especially the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, and Majority Whip, Mohammed Monguno, condemned the proposed decriminalisation of cannabis.

Gbajabiamila, who presided over the session and had defended the proposal, noted that it must have been opposed due to the word ‘decriminalise’ in the title of the bill, which he said was not there earlier on Wednesday.

While Kalu and Onuoha were unanimous on the call for the bill’s withdrawal, the former noted blamed the rejection on the harmonisation of the bills, noting that they would be represented separately after a review.

Cannabis cultivation, sale and use are presently outlawed in Nigeria.

The PUNCH had reported on January 7, 2021, that the House was, however, proposing legalisation of cultivation and trading in cannabis, also known as hemp and marijuana, for medical and cosmetic use, research purposes as well as revenue generation for Nigeria.

If the bill becomes law, hospitals and doctors will be allowed to prescribe doses of cannabis for the treatment of patients, while pharmacies and stores will be allowed to sell the drug.

The proposed law, however, sets conditions for the cultivation, buying, selling and consumption of the drug.

In the bill, Onuoha said the objectives of bill, among others, include providing for the “regulation of the cultivation, possession, processing, availability and trade of cannabis for medicinal and researching purposes.”

The proposed law will also provide for “registration and licensing system for cannabis farmers and processors; regulate the cultivation, processing, availability and trade of cannabis for medical purposes; and promote public awareness about the cultivation, processing, availability and trade of cannabis for medicinal and research purposes and its use in relation to medical or health purpose.”

The relevant agencies will be empowered to “regulate the growth and use of cannabis; register cannabis growers and users; issue licences to cannabis growers, processors producers, manufacturers and users; and develop awareness programs on the growth and use of cannabis.”

The agencies would also advise federal and state governments on matters relating to cannabis growers, producers, manufacturers and users, while educating the masses on the healthy and unhealthy use of cannabis as well as undertaking research and policy development on the growth and use of cannabis.

The bill partly read, “A person who grows, produces or sells cannabis not for medical purpose and does not present the particulars required for registration under Section 12(1) commits an offence and shall be liable upon conviction to imprisonment for two years or a fine not exceeding N1,000,000 or to both.”

The global market of the plant was estimated at $20.5bn in 2020, and projected to reach $90.4bn by 2026.

While the NDLEA is clamping down on cannabis farmers, sellers and users, more countries are legalising the use of the plant for medical and cosmetic purposes, among others.

Countries such the United States, United Kingdom, China, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands have legalised medical use of cannabis.

In the US alone, over 30 states, four territories and the Washington District of Columbia have also legalised the medical use of hemp, though its use remains prohibited at the federal level.

In Africa, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe are earning revenue from weed sales in the global cannabis market, while South Africa is in the process of putting a legal framework in place to allow commercialisation of the plant.

According to Marijuana Business Factbook, a source of data for cannabis businesses and investors, the legal marijuana industry’s economic impact on the United States was between $20bn and $23bn in 2017. In 2021, it projected that the impact could hit $77bn by 2022.

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