By West Africa Drug Policy Network, Drug Policy Network -Ghana, Harm Reduction Alliance Ghana, Students for Sensible Drug Policy- Ghana, YouthRISE International, Students for Drug Policy Reform Ghana, Hemp Association of Ghana
We have read the CSOs petition to the President and the Speaker of parliament on why Ghana should not legalize cannabis.
First and foremost, we want to emphatically state, the current narcotics bill before parliament is not seeking to legalize drugs, the bill before parliament is seeking to decriminalize drug use and place the health and well-being of its citizens at the forefront of its constitutional mandate by treating drug use as a health issue.
Ghana is a signatory to the 3 international conventions, that is the 1961, 1971 and 1988 convention and the preamble-of these conventions mandates all member states to place the health and well-being of its citizens in the implementation of these conventions. Fairly, is continuous punishment of people who use drugs a fulfillment of that commitment of Ghana? Absolutely no, it’s in clear violation of the letter and spirit of these very conventions.
The Conventions provide a very clear provision whereby drug use does not need to be criminalized. The 1961 Convention, Article 36 (b) explicitly states “when abusers of drugs have committed such offences, the Parties may provide, either as an alternative to conviction or punishment or in addition to conviction or punishment, that such individuals shall undergo measures of treatment, education, after-care, rehabilitation and social reintegration in conformity…”.
This is then repeated in the 1971 Convention (Article 22b) and the 1988 Convention (Article 3, Para 4 c and d). Please take note of a commentary on the 1988 Convention “It will be noted that, as with the 1961 and 1971 Conventions, paragraph 2 does not require drug consumption as such to be established as a punishable offence” (UN, 1988). Moreover, the term personal use has not been defined in the International drug Conventions (Marks, 2019). The International Conventions rather criminalizes possession with the intention for trafficking and not possession for personal use.
We should not forget that, imposing on this very population with criminal records for the use of cannabis or any other drugs have ripple effects, this very population gradually become the fulcrum of any country's economy so why burden them with criminal records for the rest of their lives for committing just minor non-violent drug offences?