Why Nigeria needs to rethink hard stance on Cannabis (2)

It is often reported in Nigeria that the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has arrested individuals in possession of “Indian hemp”. On some occasions, the reports indicate farms where these are being grown have been burnt down as deterrent.

But a question becomes important to ponder; is there a chance some of the seizures and stigma against Cannabis in Nigeria may have been based on ignorance of what type of cannabis is scientifically proven to be ‘harmful’? Again, not all Cannabis is meant for drug purposes, particularly Marijuana (which in itself, is another topic of legality in different countries). However, in Nigeria, no distinction appears to exist, at least not when law enforcement agencies make a ‘cannabis bust’.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines Hemp, (Cannabis sativa), also called industrial hemp, as a member of the plant of the family Cannabaceae cultivated for its fibre (bast fibre) or its edible seeds.

Hemp, according to Britanica, is sometimes confused with the cannabis plants that serve as sources of the drug marijuana and the drug preparation hashish. Although all three products—hemp, marijuana, and hashish—contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound that produces psychoactive effects in humans, the variety of cannabis cultivated for hemp has only small amounts of THC relative to that grown for the production of marijuana or hashish.

According to the “Global State of Hemp: 2019 Industry Outlook”, hemp could play a major role in achieving the goals outlined in the African Union’s “Africa 2063” and the African Development Bank’s “Feed Africa” initiatives.

This would not seem plausible at first glance, but the report goes further to explain that including hemp foods in humanitarian relief efforts – and importing to neighbouring countries and in conflict zones – could have an immediate impact on malnourishment and would take advantage of the nutritional and medicinal value of hemp.

Hemp seeds according to the report, are among nature’s best sources for plant-based protein. Hemp protein powder is made from hemp seeds, which provide a solid nutritional boost similar to flaxseeds. Hemp has 20 amino acids, including the nine essential amino acids that the body is unable to produce on its own and must obtain from dietary sources. Hemp protein powder has dietary fiber, chlorophyll, minerals, and antioxidants without any saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, or sugar.

Considered in isolation, one could start to wonder, how the ‘nutritional values’ of hemp have suddenly become important. It however starts to make more sense, when the malnourishment and food security in Africa is considered. Several countries are affected including Nigeria where according to the 2018 global report on food crises, 5.3 million people in the northern region face severe food crisis. But no, hemp is not to be consumed as a whole food item, rather, as a nutritional supplement.

Continues next week…