Amid the increasingly worrisome insecurity rate in the country, the House of Representatives on Monday hinted about plans to legalize the use of Indian hemp based on what it termed its potential economic benefits to the country.
The Green Chamber’s spokesperson, Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu, gave this hint during a press conference held in Akure, Ondo State on the benefits and opportunities associated with the use of Indian hemp.
Kalu pointed out the House of Representatives had concluded arrangements to organize a 2-day Stakeholders’ Roundtable on the benefits of the weed which will feature scientists, medical and pharmaceutical professionals, farmers, insurance companies, executives, and private sector investors as participants.
According to him, the forum has been scheduled to hold on June 7 and 8 this year.
The lawmaker, who cited countries such as South Africa and others as already reaping high revenue from India hemp (Cannabis), said Nigeria should also consider the economic gains that will accrue if its use is legalized.
He explained: “Nigeria has been described as oil-dependent and not oil-rich. It is a worrying reality that we have not optimized the financial stability advantage that our oil reserves can provide us to diversify our collective investment and revenue sources.
“The coronavirus pandemic exposed our weaknesses when global oil prices plummeted by as much as 15 per cent even falling below $0 a barrel on 20 April 2020. Indeed, our economy is still recovering from that shock. However, as the world increasingly shifts towards renewable energy and climate-friendly energy sources, global oil demand will further drop.
“Agriculture has always been a major strength of Nigeria and cannabis provides interesting prospects. Industrial hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for industrial use.
“Once harvested, the crop has a high yield of edible proteins and fibres with more than 50,000 product applications ranging from papermaking, textiles, biodegradable plastics, fuel, construction, healthy food, beverages, personal care products, and pharmaceuticals.
“According to verified market research, the Global Industrial Hemp Market was valued at USD 5 Billion in 2019 and is projected to reach USD 36 Billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 34 per cent from 2019 to 2026”, Kalu added.
Justifying further the lawmakers’ position on legalizing the use of Indian hemp, he used the research conducted by a consultancy firm, Prohibition Partners, which forecasts that by 2023, the value of Africa’s legal cannabis market could be worth over USD 7.1 billion, to support the legislators’ stance.
He expatiated: “For this to happen, a candid discourse must be held by all stakeholders on the modalities for legalization, licensing, and regulation of the industry.
“I hope that the two-day stakeholder’s roundtable discussion on the benefits and opportunities of Cannabis Plant and CBD Oil in Nigeria, scheduled to hold on Monday 7 and Tuesday 8 June 2021 will achieve this. To enable this process of legalization, I have presented before the House of Representatives, the Dangerous Drugs Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which when passed, will usher in a new era of medicinal cannabis from production processing and distribution.
“I expect that the exchanges that will ensue at the roundtable on June 7 and 8, 2021, will greatly optimize the deliberations of the National Assembly on the bill, as well as preparations by the executive arm of government to regulate the sector.
“Nigerians must understand that we are not alone in this race to establish a lucrative medical and industrial hemp economy. Based on recommendations by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations (UN) voted to remove Cannabis from schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and reclassified it as medicinal and therapeutic, on December 2, 2020.
“Several countries have legalized medicinal and industrial hemp and other African countries are moving to do the same”, Kalu maintained.
In his remarks at the media parley, Special Adviser to the state governor on Agriculture, Mr Akin Olotu, said the Ondo State Government, in conjunction with Culturepreneur Clusters Limited and other partners, would hold a stakeholders’ roundtable on the benefits and opportunities of the cannabis plant and CBD Oil in Nigeria.
He pointed out that the discussion will focus on research, legalisation, licensing, medical advantages, agro-economy advantages, empowerment, benefits of Internal Generated Revenues, Trade Exchange benefits.