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Ghana's Judge Wades into Legalisation of Marijuana

Circuit Court judge has waded into the debate on the legalisation of marijuana started by the Narcotics Control Board Executive Secretary, Mr Yaw Akrasi Sarpong, last week.

Mr Francis Obiri, who presided over some drug-related cases Monday, suggested that instead of legalising the drug, which could make matters worse, the country would be better off, if the sentence for drug-related offences was reviewed.

Expressing his views on whether Ghana as a nation must legalise the use of marijuana, locally referred to as “wee”, in open court, the judge said, “Someone can embezzle so much funds and can be bailed but somebody who commits a narcotic offence cannot be bailed. It does not make sense.”

Alternatives to incarceration

He argued that much as he did not condone the use of narcotics, he saw it as unreasonable to convict narcotic offenders who had been arrested smoking maybe  half or full roll of marijuana with the same severity as someone arrested with hundreds of rolls or known to be a drug peddler or courier.

A fine of say GH¢100 per a roll of marijuana, for example, was more realistic, he said, adding that money could even be raised for the state through such fines.

Mr Obiri also suggested that those arrested for smoking or possessing marijuana could be made to do community service at a place where everyone could see them, so it would serve as a deterrent to others instead of handing them long sentences.

To him, long sentences, such as one, two or 10 years, burdened the state which had to ensure their upkeep while they remained in prison.

“We can, for instance, put them on community service for one month to pick empty water sachet,” he suggested.

In response to pleas for leniency, Mr Obiri later sentenced a first time accused person who told the court he had two pregnant wives, to a day’s imprisonment and a fine of 100 penalty units.

Why legalise marijuana?

Last week Wednesday, Mr Akrasi Sarpong said on Power FM, an Accra-based radio station, that the “war” waged on marijuana in the country stood to be lost because many people believed “what you are fighting is not crime”.

He was sure that legalising marijuana, like some states in the US had done, would help to regulate its use and reap huge profits for the country.

According to him, the regulation of marijuana use was a headache which must be tackled as a country.

He, therefore, called for a national debate on the matter.

First Published on Source:Graphic Online



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