Marijuana And The Challenge Of Curbing Crimes


By Rasak Musbau

P.J.O Rourke, U.S. writer and humorist, once said that, ‘Marijuana is … self-punishing’. It makes you acutely  sensitive and in this world, what worse punishment could there be?

Marijuana is a common name for a drug made from the dried leaves and flowering tops of the Indian hemp plant  cannabis sativa. People smoke, chew, or eat marijuana for its hallucinogenic and intoxicating effects. It is  known by a number of slangs and names, including Indian Hemp, ‘pot’, ‘grass’, weed , ‘Igbo’( in Yoruba),  ‘Wiwi’ (in Hausa)  among others.

It should trouble every one of us that our youth that should ordinarily be a social force of great importance  to the development of the nation are taking the anti-social path of marijuana addiction. While one may  disagree with Rourke that this illicit drug is merely a self–punishing behaviour, it is a fact that it  actually make the smokers acutely sensitive. And this should serve as foundations of our fear as lots of the  people involved in the menace of marijuana use are educationally and socially challenged. While casual use of  marijuana exists among the affluent, it is more common among the school drop-outs, homeless, and unemployed  and unemployable that are acutely sensitive to all sorts of criminal behaviours.

There are many reasons to be worried by the rate at which marijuana is openly being used on our streets,  especially among the youth. In most countries, marijuana is classified as a controlled substance that is  illegal to sell or possess. It is, therefore, a great concern that in Nigeria today, hemp smokers now do  their things in the open. Marijuana is now as available as other commodities in the open shop. In Nigeria,  Ondo, Ekiti and Edo states are ranked highest in the cultivation and consumption of Marijuana. The root  causes of this are multi-faceted and clearly explain the reality of the death of traditional Nigerian society  that so jealously guarded the security of the youth.  It illustrates how we have thrown our moral values to  the dustbin.

The criminal activities of the weed users at their hide-outs, which are not hidden anyway, are now becoming  too frequent for comfort. At most of the city’s dark spots, one is bound to see them drinking alcohol and  smoking Indian hemp with reckless abandon. There are those who operate like cults, carving out their  territories of influence where they intimidate, rape and rob innocent residents at will. Residents of areas  such as Abisogun Leigh Street in Ogba, an area along Queens Drive (formerly Oyinkan Abayomi), Victoria  Island, Adura field in Alagbado and ‘Kuwait’ located inside Gowon Estate in Egbeda to mention just a few,   know better of their harrowing experience from this group.  I once  witnessed a particular incident early  this year when the gate of a whole street had to be closed as a result of a free for all that broke out among   the Omo amugbos (hemp smokers). It was such a gory sight as guns and other dangerous weapons were freely  used with people, especially children on their way to school  scrambling for safety.

It is important to illustrate what marijuana does to the body and minds of the users. The smoke from  marijuana is toxic. It can lead to serious disorders, including cancer. The negative effects also include  confusion, acute panic reactions, anxiety attacks, fear and loss of self-control. Chronic marijuana users may  develop a motivational syndrome characterized by passivity, decreased motivation, and preoccupation with  taking drugs. Like alcoholic intoxication, marijuana intoxication impairs judgment, comprehension, memory,  speech, problem-solving abilities. Of particular worry is the permanence of its ill-effect among people who  began smoking in adolescence. Aside the smoker, every passive smoker is a potential victim of some of the  ill-effects. Yet, there is hardly any area in Nigeria free of this drug problem and the subsequent criminal  behaviour of its users.

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No doubt, when you give people foothold, they take a strong hold. As such, the unpleasant issue of  indiscriminate use of marijuana is an indictment of our security operatives, especially the anti-narcotic  agency. It is sad that some security officials legalize the activities of hemp smokers through the illegal  act of extorting money from those that deal in the illicit drug.  Perhaps, more tragic is the fact that some  of  our so-called security operatives also use the drug at same spots where criminal activities are planned  and executed by hoodlums. The traditional standards and values that place additional responsibility on  holders of public offices in sane society are almost nil here in Nigeria.

The police, in particular, have much to do if the trend of crime and behaviours that aid drug use are not  given attention they deserve. One foresees a dangerous scenario where most of the trouble spots in the  country might become more volatile if the current trend that gives unlimited room for drug users and dealers  to operate is not properly tackled.

Plainly put, our anti-drug war is still cosmetic in approach. While one commends the present effort of the  anti-drug agency in sensitizing the people, especially drivers at motor parks,  and running jingles in the  media,  without effectively starting the war from the production and distribution outlets across the country,  all the efforts might just be in vain. Treatment of cause should be more important than its symptoms.

The multiple crimes being perpetrated under the influence of marijuana and other hard drugs underscore the  urgency for the Nigerian government to devise strong measures to tackle this socially destructive virus.  Reduction of unemployment and poverty, is germane among the solutions expected from the government.

In the same vein, parents, faith-based organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations, community leaders and  other stake holders need to quickly devise strategies aimed at curtailing this anti-social activity. The  problem is a product of collective societal failure. Hence, the need for the evolvement of a common front in  tackling it.  So, the war against this menace could only succeed through a collective effort. Ironically drug  peddlers as well as users are also aware and discuss problem of bad leadership, corruption and other ills in  the society at their spots. This became evident at the January anti-fuel subsidy removal protest at Ojota,  Lagos.

In sum, the anti-narcotics agency must step up the clampdown on the production, control of the sale,  distribution and use of marijuana. The current security situation in the country makes it very expedient for  agencies concerned to step up their game in respect of marijuana. Initiatives such as the establishment of  Drug-Free Club and on-going plan to include drug abuse in school curriculum by the Lagos State Government  should be replicated across the country.

•Musbau is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja

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