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Gov. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State

By Isaac Asabor

Dear Governor,

I am obliged to address you openly since personal access to you may be barred by your bureaucratic and routine security protocol.

I must confess that each time I read about you calling for the legalization of Indian hemp that the fear that usually comes to mind is that soon, Rastafarian communities would begin to mushroom all over Ondo State and other parts of Nigeria unarguably as they heed to your strident call, which unarguably carries weight as a governor. In fact, what best describes the power and authority your words carry is Source Credibility, a mass communication theory.

For the sake of clarity, Source Credibility is a theory in mass communication that explains how communication’s persuasiveness is affected by the perceived credibility of the source of the communication. The area of Source Credibility is studied for practical applications in communication, marketing, law, and political science.

Explanatorily put, for any resident of Lagos State, what Governor Sanwo Olu says directly will unarguably carry more weight than what his Special Assistant assigned to any given sector in the State says; even if he spoke on his behalf. Sir, against the foregoing backdrop, it can in this context be recalled that you have said much about the inherent benefits of smoking and cultivating marijuana. Sir, if I may ask, “Are you sure all the “Area Boys” in Ondo State have not believed you from misinterpreted perspective?”

Social scientists agree that credibility can indeed be divided into three elements, competence, trust and goodwill, which unsurprisingly did not deviate too much from Aristotle’s original work. Applied in this context, not few “Area boys” or street urchins will intensify their collective wayward lifestyle in the smoking of Marijuana as they would unarguably be confident that the governor has for the umpteenth time spoken, and has endorsed it to be medicinal. As for those that are furtively cultivating the illicit drugs, they would audaciously expend more efforts on their illegitimate drug farms as the governor whose words carry much weight has for the umpteenth time said it is profitable, and that it would boost Ondo economy.

“Mi nuh have nutten fi complain bout, mi life irie.” Your Excellency, when your advocacy sails through, the foregoing slangs would be what you will be hearing people speak when they are “high”.    In English, this translates to: “I don’t have anything to complain about, my life is good.”

Your Excellency, another slangs is ‘Inner Luv’. May be after a hard day’s job, say after having a great time inaugurating projects, it would be good idea to appreciate the people for their time. To appreciate your constituents, you can wave at them, and use the phrase “inner luv”. The phrase translates to when you’re happy about a particular service or moment, you can say, “mi have inner luv fi your time” then you will definitely leave them impressed. Sir, when your advocacy sails through, you would surely be greeted with myriads of Jamaican slangs from Indian hemp smokers you are presently fighting for.

There is no denying the fact that one of the traits of Rastafarians that come to mind when people hear of Rastafari is their lavish use of marijuana. To typical Rastafarians, the smoking of Indian hemp, which is also called Ganja is a special experience. According to them, they use the Ganja to help enlighten their mind so they can correctly reason the ways of the world. The Ganja is always smoked in a ritual way. Before smoking the plant the Rasta will say a prayer to Jah (God) or to Haile Selassie I. The Rasta call them reasoning sessions when they use Ganja for Nyabinghi. A Nyabinghi session is much different from a casual marijuana smoking session that non-Rastafarians take part in. Non-Rastafarians smoke marijuana for social and entertainment reasons. Outside Rastafarianism, smoking the weed may lead to a mischievous scenarios. This differs greatly from what takes place during a Nyabinghi. A Nyabinghi is taken very seriously. Acting silly would be considered disrespectful to a Rasta. Before Rasta smoke the ritual plant, they say a prayer to their god, Haile Selassie.

Your Excellency, the foregoing subculture is what may likely become the resultant effect of your tenacious call for the legalization of Marijuana.

Other aspects the legalization of Indian hemp may lead to is its indiscriminate use by hawkers by roadsides and at bus stops who may resort to soaking it in “Ogogoro”, and measuredly resold in cups to vulnerable youths that may be hanging around for fun. Only God knows what would happen to the light-headed ones if they just sip from the cup bought or offered to them by their friends.  Sir, the devastating impact this may leave on the sociological landscape in Ondo State can be better imagined in this context than witnessed.

Our Governor, despite the flurry of condemnations that have been trailing your call since you first made you view publicly known in 2019 or thereabout, you have unarguably been seizing every given opportunity to resonate the call by always buttressing it with the commercial and medicinal benefits that are inherent in the legalization of Indian hemp. At a particular forum, you explained thus: “We must find a way to legalize 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.

To my view, you should please pipe low on the call for the legalization of the hard substance for now until you have made a broader consultation, not at public events as not few vulnerable youths might have believed you that it is medicinal, and thus resort to taking it whenever they have slight headache or fever, and on account of the sheer ignorance become addicted.

It is expedient to opine in this context that as interest builds in the potential health benefits from the plant that accumulating evidence confirms that taking Indian hemp also carries risks.

Your Excellency, to explanatorily grasp the enormity of the legalization of Indian hemp, it is expedient to recall that  in October 2018, Canada became the second country, after Uruguay, to allow the use of cannabis not only for medical reasons, but also for recreational purposes. In the lead-up to its full legalization, the Canadian government commissioned a study of the drug’s potential harmful effects so that it could make responsible decisions about how the drug should be sold, packaged and taxed, says Fiona Clement, a health-policy researcher at the University of Calgary’s Cummings School of Medicine.

Clement and her colleagues analyzed the findings of 68 reviews of cannabis research. Of the reviews, 62 showed associations between the drug and various adverse outcomes, including impaired driving, increased risk of stroke and testicular cancer, brain changes that could affect learning and memory, and a particularly consistent link between cannabis use and mental illnesses involving psychosis. Risks were highest for teenagers, pregnant women and people already at risk of mental illness.

In fact, evidence of the drug’s acute and chronic risks is building, but many questions still remain about how much cannabis is too much and how compounds in the plant interact to buffer or exacerbate the harmful effects. As claims of health benefits become increasingly common, these are important questions to answer. Users and lawmakers need to be aware of the risks to be able to make informed choices, say researchers.

Besides the foregoing, the effects experienced by the marijuana user are variable and will depend upon the dose, method of administration, prior experience, any concurrent drug use, personal expectations, mood state and the social environment in which the drug is used.

Other damaging effects of marijuana include: an altered state of consciousness. The user may feel “high”, very happy, euphoric, relaxed, sociable and uninhibited, distorted perceptions of time and space, even as the user may feel more sensitive to things around them, and may also experience a more vivid sense of taste, sight, smell and hearing.

As if the debilitating side effects are not enough, its consumption can lead to increased pulse and heart rate, bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, and ravenous increase in appetite. It can also lead to difficulty in operation of machines, particularly at work, and makes its users to have negative experiences, such as anxiousness, panic, self-consciousness and paranoid thoughts.

People who use large quantities of cannabis may become sedated or disoriented and may experience toxic psychosis, not knowing who they are, where they are, or what time it is. High doses may also cause fluctuating emotions, fragmentary thoughts, paranoia, panic attacks, hallucinations and feelings of unreality. Your Excellency, as I conclude, I would be highly delighted if my plea for you to rescind the call for the legalization of marijuana is heeded to.

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