Richard Agymeng Berko Writes: “Myself, my dreads and marijuana”


I am trying to acquaint myself with the origin of certain dogmas that like a plague, continue to inform our 21st century sociocultural lives as a people. The rationale that hastened our post-independence political elite’s decision to embrace and enact certain laws ought to be revisited and discussed dispassionately without prejudice because I am convinced it is within the reach of the African to beat his former colonial master to his own game; Which is the game of civilization.

My opinion might not count or serve as any currency of note but the unfortunate news is I have resolved to, with the passage of my time left under the sun, and as a free man, be taught, learn and amass enough knowledge on these ‘dos and don’ts’ they (our fore fathers) bequeathed us as part of my humble efforts to grow into an implacable crusader for the proper liberation of my fellows and I.

Pursuant to my quest, I shall lend support and resources that I can afford to any campaign that seeks to untangle the African or any minority group of persons who are abused, oppressed or denied their right to pursue their full measure of happiness as equal men.

Under the cloak of legalese and scripture, a privileged few continue to lead the masses astray. I do not pose to have found the right way, but I am earnestly in pursuit of it thus my desire to be tolerant and respectful of the culture of any man I come into contact with. Tolerating and respecting the nature of persons we consider different from us isn’t easy.
We most often judge summarily and toss them plus their ideals/culture/heritage unto the scrap heap of our pathetic but seemingly superior lives. We do not care. We are the better people. God’s people.

To abhor and eschew divergent opinions on matters of politics, tribe, religion and sexual preference in Africa are long standing challenges that have festered too long to become cancerous. But there are more. I recently sat in a Koforidua bound Toyota Hiace mini bus at the Tema Station terminal in Accra. I was the first passenger to board and the next to join was an elderly albino.

Admittedly, a very ‘unique ‘pair of human beings . . . as fate will have it or to make matters worse, I, a dread locks wearing human being was donning a batakari on that Friday. But for dark clouds that gathered up in the skies, I am not sure my fellow children of God who had obviously resigned to wait for the next bus will have gone to Koftown that day.

Fellows, discrimination of varying degrees are so rife amongst us that it is as if foreigners were meting them to us. I wear my natural hair locked so I am called ‘Rasta’. I won’t bore you with how illiterate and erroneous that tag is. Can’t afford it.

I have lost count of the occasions I have been frisked by the police whilst going about my normal duties as a father and a free man. . . . But how possession of any plant leaves amount to a crime beats my basic understanding of Moses’ Ten Commandments.

Stealing and fraud are examples of 2nd degree Felonies so is the possession of marijuana.

Indian hemp or marijuana or ganja or Cannabis is a rich source of cannabinol. Ever heard of it and its properties in pharmacy? Ask your doctor. The weed is apart from its potency as a stimulant, been proven to have unrivaled medicinal, industrial and recreational uses. So much that in recent years a lot of states and nations have started decriminalizing its possession and cultivation.

There is no denying that this plant is in circulation here in Ghana and in large quantities. Our Agro intellectuals and native farmers had even before independence been aware that our Ghanaian soils can germinate rich and organic strains of this plant that has international demand but continue to be scandalously tagged a narcotic drug. I am also cognizant of the likelihood of consumers and users to, just like any recently discovered lifesaving or life enhancing item, abuse it.

Indeed some medical professionals claim to have come across victims of the plant. My contention though is, if the holy books like the Quran and the Bible can be abused to serve as an excuse for all types of criminal and evil deeds, then what else can’t be abused to a fault in this new era? I am not in the business of wasting my life to contest statistics of some good people. If malnutrition for instance is an abuse of balanced organic diet, why is the abuse of a particular plant and its resultant illness being blown out of proportion to suppress an entire community of users of the plant Marijuana?

Why are we pretending the advantages of this noble plant can’t serve our nation better as a cash crop? Cocaine, heroine, Panadol and aspirin are drugs and are produced or manufactured in labs. In fact battery acid is part of the ingredients’ used in the process of turning the coca plant into a final product called cocaine but plants that have medicinal purposes are herbs.

When plants could be used for food it is either a fruit or vegetable. What do we gain from this deliberate illiterate slumber on the issue of Indian hemp? A few years ago, our legislators thought it wise to tax Akpeteshi, our local rum. Same could be done to marihuana. We could first and foremost require of farmers to apply for a license from their agricultural district post before they start cultivation of the plant.

If we can set up an entire Ministry of Power to foster efforts to curb our power crisis aka ‘dumsor’, who says we can’t afford to set up an agency whose sole purpose will be to comb foreign states and stores who would want to place advance orders even before harvest time?

Hello? Please I am not into ‘welcoming you aboard lets smoke wee international airlines, roll it up and light it up and enjoy your flight’ kind of chatter, there are decent people languishing in jail and at our cost just because they were in possession of Marijuana leaves. Like you are placed in the same room for a minimum of 5 year with an armed robber or a pedophile or a thief because you were caught selling kontomire or cassava leaves! Really? And we consider ourselves enlightened men? And we pray to God to be forgiven ‘our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’?

To draw curtain on the debate and to absolve government’s scant resources of any more ‘adventurous’ enterprises, the state could appeal to the private sector to advance some funds to undertake feasibility on the economic potential of Marijuana exportation and its benefits to our forex reserves alone; on condition that they the initial donors to the prospecting will be exempted for taxes to the tune of their investment. We did similar with those who believed Ghana had oil deposits on her shores. Today we pride ourselves as an oil producing nation.

Marijuana/Indian hemp/ ganja/ntampi could be our next big break. Let’s find out. Start with the Boss of our Narcotics Control Board.

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