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Whither Ondo State’s marijuana economic project

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Sir: A Lesotho-based cannabis cultivator has been approved as the first manufacturer in Africa to export the medicinal cannabis flower as an active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) to the European Union. The Africa’s cannabis market is worth over $7 billion, but it remains dormant.
 
Over two years ago, Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu disclosed plan by the state government to grow marijuana, also known as Indian hemp or cannabis or Igbo as locally known, for economic reasons. Akeredolu is yet to kick off the initiative.

His cannabis revolution was announced on Monday, May 13, 2019, when he was in Thailand with the then Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Muhammad Abdallah, for a programme on medicinal cannabis extract development. Taking to his Twitter account, the governor said Nigeria would be short-changing itself by not tapping into the economic value of marijuana, said to be valued at $145 billion in 2025.

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He said the enterprise, under the supervision of the NDLEA, would create thousands of jobs for Nigerians if seriously considered by the Federal Government. “I strongly implore the Federal Government to take this seriously as it is a thriving industry that will create thousands of jobs for our youth and spur economic diversification.”
 
In many African homes, many people see marijuana as a forbidden fruit that does no one any good and so no one was expected to touch it even with a long pole while its users then were treated like outcasts.
 
Marijuana known in local parlance in many parts of Nigeria as Igbo, Efo, Eja, Ganja, Sensi, Kuma and Kpoli, in the last few decades across the world has shattered the old misconceptions and changed the narratives, as cross-cutting research had established that cannabis can be put into profitable and beneficial uses. It has been discovered to be one of the most effective natural medicines in human history, with potential and potency of providing over 71 medical remedies for the cure of wide-ranging number of diseases including the suppression of acne, deployment as anti-biotic, anti-fungal, appetite stimulator, treatment of arthritis, asthma, for auto immune disorders and cachexia.
 
In the same vein, experts have identified thousands of potential products which can be produced from marijuana, industrial hemp or cannabis. Such products include: clothing, cosmetics, lotions, shampoos, soaps, paper, food, feed, beer, biofuels, animal bedding, building materials, insulation, and car moulding among many other consumer industrial products.
 
While African countries are yet to tap this new gold, interestingly, markets for marijuana and allied products in many countries of the world had continued to grow in leaps and bounds. In countries such as the U.S., Latvia, Australia, Slovenia and New Zealand, marijuana sales constitute a reasonable percentage of their Gross Domestic Products (GDP).
 
About 30 countries of the world including Canada, Argentina, Australia, Mexico, Chile, Denmark, Finland, and others have legalised the plant for medical and recreational uses in the past few years.

But why has Akeredolu not commenced this laudable initiative almost three years after the announcement, and tap into the over $7 billion dormant Africa’s cannabis market?
• Eniola Daniel is a journalist and content creator based in Lagos. Twitter and Instagram handle: UnlimitedEniola.

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