The Secretary of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria, Lagos State chapter, Pharm. Jonah Okotie, has urged the Federal Government to tread cautiously on the issue of legalising cannabis in Nigeria.
The use of cannabis for medicinal purposes has been legalised in the United State of America, the United Kingdom, and some other countries around the world. Although, it has not been legalised in Nigeria yet, some state governments are already considering the economic benefits of growing cannabis.
Okotie, in an interview with our correspondent, however, warned that legalising cannabis in Nigeria might have severe consequence, especially with the growing rate of suicide, drug and substance abuse in the country.
“In America and other countries where medicinal cannabis has been legalised, it must be prescribed by a medical doctor. You cannot go anywhere and say you want to buy medicinal cannabis. You have to get a prescription for it.
“Right now we have a problem, which the government has only recognised: the response to the drug problem is still grazing the surface. We have not even started addressing it. Giving a free room for the use of cannabis will worsen our situation. There was a study, carried out some years ago, that said 13 per cent of psychiatry cases were due to cannabis. Imagine what will happen by the time it is legalised. I can bet that the number of psychiatrist arising from cannabis abuse will increase by 40 per cent, if not more,” Okotie said.
The pharmacist described cannabis as a plant that could have a different effect on different people. Explaining that it had positive and negative uses, he added, “Cannabis is a plant that has so many uses. The irony of it is that while one substance is producing an effect on someone, the same substance is producing a different effect on another person. That is why if you take a history of the effect of cannabis on some people, you will find that it is not a plant that has predictable outcome. If 10 people take it, it will do different things to each of them.
“For instance, from the point of psychiatry, a user can go manic or become excited after taking it. Others may suffer depression, become schizophrenic or bipolar,” Okotie said.
He added that the Food and Drug Administration of the United States of America has legalised the use of cannabidiol as an anti-epilepsy drug for people with severe epilepsy.
“It has various effects on people. Some people will tell you that when they use cannabis, they get inspired. That is why you see a lot of musicians smoking it before performing at shows. One of the side effects is hallucination. The users see all manner of things, which they cannot see in their right senses,” Okotie said.
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