Legal cannabis market in limbo

A worker picks leaves from cannabis plants last month in the greenhouse at the MG Health Ltd. growing facility in the African nation of Lesotho

The desire for a drug-free society in Ghana is utopian. It is not a realistic ambition by any stretch. Ghana’s approach to legalizing cannabis for industrial and scientific use is still in warm-up mode and smacks of a jocular tone. If there is one thing Ghana is good at, it is passing legislation without dilly-dallies.

Ghana’s most revered diplomat Kofi Annan (may God rest his soul), was a strong advocate for the legalization and regulation of cannabis in Ghana. His advocacy entreated Ghana to refocus drug laws for the benefit of people and to harness the economic opportunities of the cannabis industry. In line with this, prominent Ghanaians such as; Kwesi Pratt, John Dumelo and others have joined the chorus. But so far, so bleak. Ghana is yet to play catchup in the global cannabis market.

Although the President assented to the Narcotics Control Commission Act, 2020 (Act, 1019) to repeal the 1990 PNDC law 236 on Narcotic Drugs (Control, Enforcement, and Sanctions), the new law is only as good as the old one. Business people who had hopes that parliament would pass the legislative instrument (LI) for the new law have seen their hopes dashed and waned.

The Narcotics Control Commission of the Republic of Ghana has not sent the required information to parliament to hasten the passage of the LI. To that effect, cannabis is still illegal in Ghana – and Ghana lacks a legal cannabis market. The failure to legalize cannabis in the country has instead given the illicit market enough muscle to thrive.

The realities of our times demand that Ghana speeds up the cannabis legalization process. Evidence from the World Drug Report shows that Ghana’s reputation precedes itself when it comes to countries that cultivate and use cannabis. Ghana is among the top three users of cannabis worldwide. To recap recent events in 2022, two officers of the Ghana Police Service (GPS) were caught with marijuana.

The videos emerged on two different accounts on social media; whilst one was smoking marijuana, the other was transporting 84 parcels of compressed dried leaves suspected to be marijuana when his colleague officers nabbed him. The foregone conclusion is more than evident. Cannabis use cannot be outlawed, and the reason is simple, officials entrusted with the authority to prevent people from recreational marijuana are allegedly the actual consumers of it.

African countries such as Lesotho, Morroco, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi are innovatively promoting cannabis as an economic cash crop to shape lives and livelihoods. For instance, the cannabis market is set to create 130,000 jobs in South Africa in 2022.

The Prohibition Partners reports that the global cannabis business could be worth over $200 billion by 2028. Africa’s legal market value could be at least $7.1 billion by 2023 if recreational and medicinal use is legalized. Ghana was projected to get $0.38 million from the medical cannabis market and $326 million from the recreational market by 2023. Can Ghana realize these revenues from the budding global cannabis market come 2023?

>>Bright Sandow is the Public Health Officer at Government Hospital, Wassa Dunkwa, Ghana Health Service. He can be reached on [email protected]

>>>Kenneth Abewini Avoka is a Business Consultant and Farmer, Abewini Consults. He can be reached [email protected]

>>>Dr Steve Kpangkpari B.T. is a Medical Director at Wassa Dunkwa Government Hospital, Ghana Health Service. He can be reached on [email protected]


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