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The Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, has urged the Nigerian Government to jettison traditional orientation and “achaic” sentiment that state that cannabis is a “devil’s plant” by setting up legal machineries in motion to enable its use in Nigeria, saying  “cannabis is a multi-billion naira industry that can help diversify the Nigerian economy if judiciously utilised”.
Speaking at a Stakeholders’ Roundtable on the “Benefits and Opportunities of Cannabis Plant in Nigeria” held at the International Culture and Event Center, “The Dome”, Akure, the state capital on Monday, Akeredolu called on the two Chambers of the National Assembly to exhibit courage by amending the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Act that prohibits the consumption of cannabis in Nigeria, stating that “the medical and economic merits of the use of cannabis outweighs its demerits”.
Akeredolu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) opined that advanced research has shown that the Cannabis certiva has immense economic benefits if well utilized.
While addressing the various misconceptions trailing his advocacy for controlled cultivation of the cannabis plant, the Governor stated that opinions against the legalization of the plant is as a result of the ignorance of people about the numerous benefits of the plant.
Akeredolu said “the planet earth has a constant period of darkness and light every 24 hours which we call night and day, in like manner, just like every other crop or plant, Cannabis Sativa has both CBD and THC content which we can put it to good and bad use”
“Products with extract of Cannabis Sativa are already in our pharmaceutical sales outlets across the country. They are being imported with foreign exchange, and sold at exorbitant prices with additional, but avoidable stress on our Naira.”
The Governor stated that during his first term, he and other members of his cabinets made a trip to Thailand to understudy the legal reform carried out to facilitate the decriminalization of the cultivation, processing and export of Cannabis Sativa which gave him the opportunity to know the immense benefits that comes along from a controlled cultivation of the plant.
“My visit to Thailand was an eye opener. We saw forest reserve used in the past to cultivate and process hard drugs transformed to be meaningfully utilized in an environmentally-friendly way for healthy ventures. We saw people previously sold to hard drugs engaged in legitimate business ventures.
“What we are therefore advocating for in Nigeria is simply a controlled cultivation of pharmaceutical standard cannabis strictly for medical purpose. I am saying necessary laws must be amended to give room for it. I am not saying it should be a free-for-all venture. Those investing in it must be licensed under strict control.
“We must find a way to legalize the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes. There is nothing wrong about it. We are only shooting ourselves in the foot. It is a foreign exchange earner for people outside the country. People want this. We ourselves, even our pharmacies want to develop…”, he said.
Akeredolu further revealed that Ondo State has one of the best Cannabis in the world which is capable of creating a million dollars’ industry for the country. He explained that in 2019, the global market of Cannabis was put at 52.8 billion dollars and that the market forecast is an average 14.5% increase from year 2020 to reach 103.9 billion dollars by 2024.
He urged members of the National Assembly, the NDLEA, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and Research Institutions to have a second and deeper thought on the issue as it holds a great potential in solving the current economic woes in the country.
The Chief Panelist at the Roundtable, Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu, member representing Bende Federal Constituency who doubles as the Spokesperson of the House of Representative, agreed with Akeredolu, stating that said it has become imperative for Nigeria to review the legislation prohibiting the farming and production of Cannabis for medicinal and industrial use in Nigeria.
While applauding Akeredolu for leading the Advocacy for the legalisation of cannabis, Kalu posited that the hemp is a viable prospect for the Nigeria’s diversification efforts.
The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora, Tolu Akande-Sadipe, who was also a panelist at the roundtable, expressed optimism that the passage of the Dangerous Drugs Act [Amendment] Bill 2020, currently at second reading, would usher in a new era on medicinal cannabis production and distribution.
*Source: Daily INDEPENDENT.

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