The high rate of India hemp usage among youth in West Africa calls for urgent intervention. Some of the often touted impact of Indian hemp usage includes violence, thuggery, assault, insanity and murder. India hemp, commonly called ‘igbo’ in Nigeria, ‘wee’ in Ghana, Maryjean in Sierra-Leone, allegedly reputed to transforms its consumer into brutal beasts, with the ability to commit crime without feeling remorse or guilt.
Indian hemp smoking has been linked to psychological disorder in several countries. In Ghana, for instance, smoking of Indian hemp is the major cause of mental disorders among the youth, consigning some of them to psychiatric hospitals, some on the street and prayer camps.
Bearing in mind the current state of psychiatric hospitals in West African states, and the number of users growing on daily basis, what then becomes the future of the region as it projects its youth as the best resource and hopes to build its human capital to transform the region’s economy?
Those who trade in Indian hemp make huge profit from it and see it as a lucrative business. In Cameroon, usage of Indian hemp is widespread as it is cultivated in most communities. Some of the plantations are found in the West Region of the country at Mbagam community.
In Ghana, smoking of India hemp among youth is high; it is the cheapest and widely abused drug. In Nigeria, for instance, one wrap is sold for N50 (0.31755 USD)–a regional average of 35 cents. In 2007, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported that 21.5% of Ghanaians, aged from 15 to age 64 smoked hemp (World Drug Report, 2007).
In Ghana, Sierra Leone, Benin, Niger just to mention four, street boys who cannot afford hard drugs, find it very easy to buy Indian hemp as substitute. The Nigerian National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, (NDLEA) confiscated 1174, 661.59kg of India hemp and destroyed 631.17 hectares of India hemp farm in 2010.
In 2011, it rose to 191,847.91kg and 918 hectares of India hemp farm damaged. Indian hemp meant to be transported from Ghana to Burkina-Faso was confiscated by the Brong Ahafo Regional police Command, while the Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) destroyed six bags of Indian hemp at the Lawra border area of Ghana.
West Africa’s music and film industry have become thriving businesses with the stars having lots of the youth as role models. However, the stars allegedly smoke hemp and their followers are likely to emulate them.
Anecdotal reports gathered for this article from a cross section of hemp users in Dutse Alhaji, a satellite town of Nigeria’s capital Abuja, revealed the reasons adduced for smoking it.
Some say it cures body pains, malaria, boost confidence and makes them think properly on the best approach to tackle life’s challenges. They also linked youth unemployment as a major cause of smoking hemp: to them, they use it to suppress frustration and emotional trauma they go through for not having a paid job.
Some women spoken to say Indian hemp is very useful for menstrual pains. According to them, immediately they take the hemp, either cooked in rice, soup or noodles the menstrual pains cease. Some students spoken to by the researcher argue Indian hemp gives them energy to read for longer period of time, gives them courage and confidence to approach the exams. Specifically, some are of the opinion that mathematics students need hemp the most so they can calculate better and write exams without stress.
West Africa has adopted its own mental ailments which they often link to hemp abuse. Ghanaians and Nigerians, for instance, are taking to prayer grounds and herbal medical practitioners. The Nigerian National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) is to build a church at Ondo state to facilitate the rehabilitation people affected by smoking Indian hemp. In Sierra-Leone, City of Rest is dedicated to handling mental cases; the Pastor Morie Ngobeh has helped men and women with addiction and other disorders since 1985. The centre has 25 to 40 beds for patients suffering from drugs and alcohol related cases.
West Africa has economic, social and institutional challenge and this worsens the Indian hemp situation. The most efficient approach to combat this trend would therefore be to strengthen legal frame work on the use of Indian hemp across West Africa, promote youth employment, strengthen democracy and the rule of law and improve on drug abuse awareness campaign.
Despite the presence of Food Drug Law (FDL) and National Drug Policy in Ghana, National Food and Administration Control (NAFDAC) and Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), National Drugs Act of 2008 in Sierra Leone, which impose severe punishment on drug-related crimes and also give compulsory imprisonment of not less than five years for custody and use of drugs, the use of Indian hemp continues to wax stronger. Worried on the high spate of India hemp smoking among youths, Lagos State House of Assembly is reviewing law prohibiting hemp use at recreation centers.
There is also urgent need to revitalize agriculture in West Africa. The collapse of agriculture in the region, has led to the cultivation of hemp as a lucrative business. This is more so in villages where subsistence farmers will not resist any crop that will bring big income to them. In the South-South Nigeria, some peasant farmers said they make most of their cash incomes from Indian hemp cultivation. A bag of hemp leaves is sold between N40, 000 (254.46 USD) and N45, 000 (286.26 USD). To them, cultivating banana and pineapple is a formality. If this situation persists and spreads over West Africa, it will worsen economic problems of the region, increase food imports and food insecurity.