By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop)
When Dr Lansana Gbere, in a recent article published in one of the local newspapers, argues that West African states should decriminalize marijuana or cannabis (locally called “Jamba”); he is trying to state the fact that when used for its medicinal properties correctly, marijuana can be very helpful and save millions of lives.
And when many states in the United States of America legalized marijuana, they were not only looking at its medicinal value but the huge revenues it would rake in on their local economies, in particular, and the national economy in general. Apart from that, the legal processing of marijuana has become a big profit-making business for multi-nationals in advanced democracies; thereby becoming one of the golden gooses in their revenue coops.
But in Sierra Leone, despite the marijuana here is of high quality (according to some studies) and can be used by multi-national pharmaceutical companies to produce drugs for many ailments, it is still illegal to plant, sell or process it. Though several studies have shown the many benefits of marijuana use; the reasons given for its criminalization in Sierra Leone are as archaic as the 1924 Slater Constitution and 1951 Stevenson Constitution of the Sierra Leone of yore.
And besides, some of the reasons given for its criminalization in Sierra Leone are as comical as they are illogical. For example, while I was growing up in Central Freetown (“Soja Tong” to be specific), my grandmother and mother told us (all the boys in the family) that if one smoked marijuana (“Jamba”) one would become mad and also that it would eat up one’s guts which would eventually lead to painful death. And we were told a-million-and-one fearful tales about marijuana in the same manner our Sunday School Teacher was telling us, at the Ebenezer Methodist Church at Circular Road, about Lucifer and his abode. The bottom line was: marijuana in whatever form was as bad as bad!
But modern and recent research have shown that those views were, and still are, just some of the myths told by matriarchs to scare their sons and grandsons away from even experimenting with it let alone smoke marijuana. After all, in reality, many types of rum in sachets and alcohols produced by some Indian companies in Sierra Leone kill more Sierra Leoneans than marijuana and cigarettes combined.
Though I have never smoked marijuana or cigarettes or drank alcohol in my entire life; I still think that there should now be a national debate on the decriminalization of marijuana simply because of its medicinal value. I know some of my compatriots will want to argue about the negatives of marijuana. But everything in this world has its positives and negatives. Even the food we eat have their own ramifications: if you eat too much food; you will either get colic or overweight. We all want to drive fast cars but if you over-speed in or with them; they might kill you in an accident. My point, exactly, is that there should always be moderation in everything we do. So, if marijuana has many medicinal values, let’s begin to look at those values than still allow our judgements to be clouded by some of the myths and tales told to us by our parents.
And, having One Dropped those One Dropian thoughts above, I will now direct my reader(s) to some of the views and studies of experts in that field of study. An article by Justin Kander on 28 February 2015 postulates that, “For years, studies have suggested cannabinoids [found in cannabis] fight different forms of breast cancer.” And in an animal study published in January 2015 in “Neuroscience”, researchers found that administration of cannabidiol (CBD) increased survival and improved mental functioning in mice acting as models for humans with cerebral malaria.
According to Arielle Gerard, “A recent systematic review published in “Schizophrenia Research” in March 2015 finds that the use of cannabidiol (CBD), a phytocannabinoid (i.e. a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant) may be helpful in the management of psychotic symptoms (which are characterized by a “loss of contact with reality”), such as those experienced by individuals with schizophrenia”. And for Joe Stone, “If a patient has a form of ASD that is truly severe, is unresponsive to available treatments, and the patient’s condition will deteriorate if no therapy is implemented…their family and physician should be legally permitted to make the decision as to whether botanical extracts from cannabis may be a viable option for treatment”.
And that’s not all. Results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial published in July 2015 in “The Journal of Pain” provide supportive evidence that inhaled, aerosolized cannabis may be effective for reducing pain experienced by patients with diabetes experiencing neuropathic pain. According to Nanette Porter, researchers looking for a way to combat the long-time public health concern conducted a series of tests involving the use of cannabidiol (CBD). Although the research used rats as subjects, the results are nonetheless encouraging. Early research suggests that CBD is an effective treatment for minimizing the inflammation experienced by asthma sufferers.
Writing on the topic “How Cannabigerol (CBG) May Help Battle Huntington’s Disease Symptoms”, Justin Kander believes that “Huntington’s Disease is a genetic disorder that runs in families. If a child inherits the mutated HTT gene from a parent, they will eventually develop Huntington’s Disease at some point in their life. No current treatments can stop or reverse the disease’s progress, and drugs used for symptomatic relief have side effects ranging from fatigue to restlessness. The best possible treatment would be one that directly targets abnormal genes. Interestingly, a compound from cannabis may have this ability”.
Apart from those, above, many studies have shown that cannabis use may benefit asthma patients and enhance general lung function. So, in other words, marijuana or cannabis or “Jamba” is not the Lucifer we have been programmed (to borrow an American phrase) to hate by both the Establishment and our parents. For it could be used to save lives! The debate has just begun in One Dropian style…