Is Nigeria Ready for Medical Marijuana?
‘Marijuanissance’, the renaissance of marijuana is upon us. Once a criminalized plant, however today several countries have now lifted the ban on marijuana and many doctors are even starting to prescribe the plant for the treatment of several medical ailments.
The new term ‘medical marijuana’ today is used to refer to the plant in relation to its usefulness in the medical sphere.
How effective is medical marijuana? What illnesses can it be used to treat? Can it work in Nigeria? What is the preferred mode of use (ingesting it or smoking)? Let us delve deep and see for ourselves.
There are over 500 active ingredients or cannabinoids found in marijuana.
However, the ones that are showing the greatest potential for medicinal use are namely; THC and CBD. THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects or ‘high’ experienced from using the plant, while CBD is purely medicinal with zero effect on the mind and behavior. THC increases appetite and reduces nausea. This can be highly effective for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, as they would not need to use anti-nausea drugs which have numerous side effects as compared to marijuana.
CBD is also very useful in reducing pain and inflammation. Marijuana is very effective for chronic pain, a leading cause of disability. It contains cannabinoids which act on the same receptors in the brain as opiods pain medicines, and by doing so, it relieves moderate to severe chronic pain. What makes it superior to conventional pain medicines, is that it has almost no side effects as compared to the side effects of liver damage(paracetamol), respiratory problems, stomach ulcers(NSAIDS) and addictions as found in other pain medicines. THC and CBD in combination have been successfully used to control epileptic seizures and even kill cancer cells.
How can medical marijuana help our nation Nigeria?
Currently, medical marijuana is a multibillion dollar industry worldwide. In the United States alone, legal marijuana is poised to fetch the country over $80 billion dollars by 2022. If we extrapolate that figure to Nigeria, it means medical marijuana has the potential to increase the GDP of Nigeria by an additional 25% from its current amount at $375.8 billion dollars. It is possible that we grow the plant solely for export as a means of boosting the economy. However, for legalization of marijuana for consumption in Nigeria, even for medical reasons, it may not yet be feasible, as we have shown poor leadership in the area of enforcement of policies and laws. We also have poor means of identifying and tracking our citizens if things go haywire. Take for instance the United States, each birth is immediately recorded into their national records and the newborn is given a social security number. That number is used in almost all aspects of the person’s life for school, work, marriage, visiting the hospital and more. If the person were to purchase marijuana at a licensed facility, the social security number is then used to track purchases and visits to any licensed facility. If any foul play is suspected, enforcement agencies are equipped to take immediate action. Until Nigeria gets to that level of organization, it is advised we don’t even attempt to legalize the plant for consumption in Nigeria, except maybe, as a tightly controlled prescription (such as morphine) available only to the terminally ill and only in approved medical centers.
Another option is to cultivate the strains of marijuana that have a very high CBD and extremely low THC content. This will still give the user the medicinal effects of marijuana without having any mind altering experience.
In addition, a marijuana product which contains only CBD is legal in most parts of the world, so we may not even need to deal with changing too many laws. It is recommended to ingest medical marijuana rather than smoke it as smoking anything in general is not good for your lungs.
In conclusion, legalizing marijuana could have dramatic positive impact on Nigeria and even on the health of our people. However, we should NOT legalize it if we do not plan to cultivate it. We should make use of what we have grown and only grow enough for export for a very profitable margin. We can’t continue this never ending cycle of importing something that can easily be grown locally thereby, making another country’s economy to flourish while ours lay fallow.
Here is to health, the health of a nation and the health of its people.