A two-day workshop on the Narcotics Control Commission Act 2020 (ACT 1019) is underway in Accra with Justice Bright Mensah, a Court of Appeal judge suggesting the commercialisation of cannabis “wee” for economic gain.
He said the cannabis could be exported to countries that needed it most to fetch foreign exchange for Ghana.
That, he said, could be done with strict control on cultivation and usage.
Justice Mensah said these in his closing remarks as the chairman of the workshop organised by the POS Foundation, a non-governmental organisation in partnership with International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) and West Africa Drug Policy Network (WADPN)-Ghana chapter with funding from Open Society Foundation.
The Court of Appeal judge told participants prosecutors and other law enforcement agencies who are the ultimate beneficiaries of the workshop that although the Narcotics Act seeks to decriminalise the abuse of drugs, section 43 of the Act does not take away the unlawfulness of the abuse of narcotics.
While commending the POS Foundation and its partners for educating law enforcement agencies on the new Act, he urged them to organise another workshop for judges and magistrates since the lower court judges would be working with prosecutors.
Mr Michael Addo, the Deputy Director of Narcotics Control Commission (NARCOC) in charge of enforcement, reminded participants that drug use remains an offence under the Act, but said section 46 of the Act gives discretion to the judge to impose a fine on problematic drug users or refer the patient to a rehabilitation facility.
He said persons who abuse narcotics require counseling and treatment but not incarceration.
Mr Addo entreated members of the public to show love to problematic drug users so that they may be rehabilitated and socially integrated into the society.
The NARCOC boss said he was concerned that some farmers are already cultivating cannabis with the passage of the Act with the hope that when the law was fully operationalised, they would be allowed to cultivate cannabis in commercial quantities.
He said the law allows for specialized cannabis for industrial use not for recreational purpose.
Mr Addo stressed the need for the establishment of a rehabilitation center where problematic drug users may receive treatment.
The Minister of Health, MrKwakuAgyeman-Manu in a speech read for him by DrBaffourAwuah of the Ministry of Health said government would work with the organisation to mobilize funds for the establishment of a rehabilitation centre.
Director General of Prisons, Mr Isaac Kofi Egyir, in a speech read on his behalf said that convicted drug offenders account for 3.4 per cent of prisoner population as of September 2021.
He said the issues of overcrowding in prisons remains a source of concern to the Prisons administration.
Mr Jonathan Owusu, the Executive Director of the POS Foundation noted that substance abuse is considered globally as a public health issue rather an a criminal matter.
He said Ghana was praised for passing the Narcotics Control Commission Act 2020 (ACT 1019).
He said decongestion of the country’s prisons could be achieved if misdemeanors were decriminalized.
The POS Foundation boss said training of law enforcement agencies was essential to the effective implementation of the law.
BY MALIK SULLEMANA