To mark World Marijuana Day, the Rastafari Council of Ghana held a press conference at the Accra Press Center to call for the removal of encumbrances associated with possession and usage of the plant. Below is a full unedited statement issued by the council.
PRESS STATEMENT TO MARK 4/20 INTERNATIONAL DAY OF MARIJUANA AT INTERNATIONAL PRESS CENTRE, ACCRA
Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media, brethren and sisters. Welcome to the International Press Centre as we mark 4/20.
Today is marked worldwide with marches, concerts and all sorts of activities to commemorate the day. In Ghana today, innocent citizens are criminalized due to marijuana possession and usage. However measured against the international developments, the position on marijuana is changing.
Our own celebrated Kofi Annan and a group of eminent personalities have called on nations to legalize marijuana. The C.E.O of the Ghana Standards Board, the distinguished Prof Dodoo has called for legalization because of the potential economic benefits. The former Executive Secretary of the Narcotics Board, Nana Akrasi Sarpong had earlier called for a national debate on marijuana with a view of decriminalizing its use.
The struggle for decriminalization of herbs has been ongoing for some time now. Initially, individuals began campaigning against the harshness of the punishment to users and by 2001 this campaign went one notch up when we started preparing documents to stop this unjust punishment and also creating awareness by educating people in trotros, talking about the issue on radio.
Then along the way, came Blakk Rasta who started talking boldly about the herb on the airwaves. In 2009 the Rastafari Council of Ghana was formed and established an advocacy committee to work on the marijuana issue. While the advocacy committee’s work was going on and Mr. Kofi Annan also suggested that the herb be decriminalized in West Africa, this was followed by Mr. Akrasi Sarpong. The Rastafari Council then wrote to, Mr. Sarpong requesting an audience with him to discuss the way forward. He advised us to rather meet the Parliamentary Committee on Defense and Interior (PSCDI).
In March 2016 a petition was put together by the committee and presented to parliament highlighting all the benefits of decriminalization, and also a request for permission to grow, transport, use, sell and export marijuana. After a year without any response from the PSCDI we decided to send an amended petition to Parliament again. Although we have not been invited by the PSCDI for any dialogue after the petition, we have collaborated with some media houses such as TV3 and Joy News to put out some documentaries and also done lots of interviews with radio and TV stations.
This is the background today’s press conference. This morning, we will like to argue our case for decriminalization along the lines of human rights, medicinal benefits and economic benefits.
Human Rights Issues
Let’s start with the moral and human rights issues. Recently a youngster was jailed ten years in prison for possessing about two dozen wraps of weed. Sometime in the immediate past, it took the Gender Minister, Nana Oye Lithur to intervene to save an old lady who had been arrested for selling weed.
There are many such stories of innocent citizens who are jailed every year for possessing marijuana. The resultant pressure on our prison systems is something we can do without.
Currently, marijuana is widely being used because of its medicinal values. C.N.N’s Sanjay Gupta who was initially a strong opponent of marijuana use changed his mind after witnessing first hand, marijuana being used to treat ailments like epilepsy, cancer patients, poor appetite and weight loss caused by chronic diseases such as HIV.
Indeed the wave of enthusiasm for medical marijuana all over the United States is due to its efficacy as a remedy. The potential benefit from using medical marijuana is beyond our wildest imaginations.
Today our nation is grappling with budgetary deficits and marijuana can be a way out for us considering the export potential of the crop. In Uruguay, marijuana cultivation and distribution is controlled by the state and users are licensed. Imagine the revenue that we will generate.
Nations like Canada, Jamaica, Holland, South Africa and the United States are raking huge revenues and Ghana does not have to wait to decriminalize and eventually legalize marijuana.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the media, our call is simple. We are calling on His Excellency, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and Parliament to take appropriate steps to bring our narcotics laws in line with the current enlightened legal regimes in nations like Holland, South Africa, Canada and Jamaica. One wrap for personal use shouldn’t be the cause of a person’s changed destiny.
In conclusion we want to express the belief that sooner than later, our brothers and sisters who are in agriculture will be able to reap the benefits of the herb just like others in Colorado, California, Uruguay, South Africa and Jamaica among others where their governments are realizing the benefits of marijuana in their national interest.
Brothers and sisters, thank you for your time and attention and God bless our homeland Ghana and make us great and strong.
Moses Kofi Asante