Three Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) have advocated the legalisation of marijuana in the country.
According to them, the widespread of criminalisation and punishment of people who use marijuana, leading to over-crowded prisons was not a solution to checking drug abuse.
The West African Drug Policy Network, a coalition with more than 600 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs); POS Foundation, a human right civil society organisation and Crime Watch Foundation, an NGO that is into life in prison documentaries have, therefore, petitioned the government to re-examine its drug laws.
This was made known at the maiden edition of a public lecture on drug reforms on Thursday in Accra.
It was on the theme ‘Drug policy reforms; perspectives on criminal justice and decriminalisation drug use in Ghana’.
The Executive Director for West African Civil Society Institute, Ms Nana Asantewa Afadzinu, said most youths who could have contributed significantly towards the development of the country were languishing in the various prisons.
She said some of them who were caught and sentenced for drug possession came out from prisons as hardened criminals, although, they were not yet drug addicts before their imprisonment.
“There have been several petitions from local CSOs and various recommendations from the African Union, the Economic Community of West Africa, United Nations and its several agencies for Ghana to consider decriminalisation of drug, especially marijuana,” she said.
The Executive Director for POS Foundation, Mr Jonathan Osei Owusu, said most inmates sentenced for smoking, especially marijuana were not chain smokers and the state could have helped them go through rehabilitation.
He said some inmates who had acquired skills through university education had been sentenced to ten years for smoking one or two rolls of marijuana.
Mr Owusu said although drugs were dangerous, the narcotic laws had also failed to consider the health and human rights of inmates sentenced for drug possession.
Professor Carl Hart, Neuroscientist Researcher at University of Columbia, denied that most people who used marijuana suffer mental illness.
He explained that there was no scientific evidence to that effect and that such claims were based on assumptions and myths.
BY BERNARD BENGHAN AND DOROTHY BROCKE