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Ganja Crisis in Ghana

In the beginning of April, 2009, Ghana police began raiding herb farms in the Volta region, Wegbe, to be exact, where 75% of Ghana’s herb is grown.  Police and soldiers managed to burn more than 2/3 of all the herb farms in the region.  During their slash and burn campaign, they also torched the sheds and lean tools used by the farmers and took the liberty to seize bails of other food products from the farms.  The police came in trucks and motorbikes, numbering as much as 100 in a single raid.  Cops playing gangsters overwhelmed, destroyed and pillaged.  On the first raid they carried in 7 farmers, on the second 21, and on and on for no less than a month.  The police extracted information from the farmers who they captured and returned to the village with addresses and numbers. Presently there are virtually no herb farmers left in the region.  Those who weren’t caught, have fled to different parts of the country, praying that this too will pass.  In one case they were unable to trace a farmer, so they took his wife! 

Worst still, the media suggests that the Jamaicans are responsible for sponsoring the farms and introducing the business to the indigenous Africans.  For the record, the first Jamaican in that region, arrived about 1980, but herb has come out of that region long, long before.  And the attack really isn’t on Jamaicans, but on Rases, whom they classify as Jamaicans, and whom, we all know, many partake of this nectar of life.  For the record, we Rases do accept credit for educating those interested, both on the proper use and a better cultivation of this sacred plant, but the same could be said about numerous other foods we have come to find lying unused or maltreated, like ackee, calaloo, june plum and many more.  Herb is our food as much as any other food, and we take it seriously.  More importantly, it is an herb, a plant, not a drug, in any shape or form.  As much as Ghanaian politicians take to following their European counterparts, they would do us all a favour and take note of the significant progress the world has made in re-classifying this plant.  Stop subjecting our youth to the liability of ten years in jail if caught with a joint, or even a seed!

It’s hard not to conclude discrimination.  Recently, I, being a Ras, was pulled over and subjected to a thorough search for no reason.  Forget illegal search and seizure, forget basic human rights.  They dug deep in my bag, even pulling up dust of lint to smell, all in search of any traces of herb.  They also went through my products, as though I would pack herb inside packaged jars of shea butter destined for local stores. To top it off, they removed parts from the taxi I had hired, since the driver was also a Ras and thus also suspect.  Several Rases have encountered the same strange treatment, each being searched in ways we never were before.  Police used to give us big respect, but now they seem to be following a new code of conduct.

I tend to think this is not the workings of our new government.  For one, the Volta region was very instrumental in putting them in power.  Matter of fact, the Volta region has always voted NDC.  Furthermore, the founding father of the NDC is a Voltarian, very much alive and definitely a sympathiser, if not still an avid partaker.  It does not make sense that this government would try to cover up the real problem by diverting drug enforcement money and tools, towards the suppression of this most beneficial plant when tons and tons of cocaine pass through Ghana, shuttled mainly by Ministers or the "business men" in our society. The cocaine trade has created the new white collar crime in Ghana, no more an industry of gangsters and criminals, but now exclusively operated by qualified men, graduates of Oxford, Harvard, and Yale.  I remain convinced that this government is far less hypocritical than its predecessors and far more determined to address the issues that are a real threat to the security of our society, namely, the infiltration of cocaine and its money into the culture, the outrageous spate of armed robberies done on the peoples in their homes and the increase of illegal weapons amongst the criminals, while the citizens are left without much legal avenues to access tools of self defense.

Furthermore, I trust this government wouldn't miss such a huge opportunity.  A more tolerable stance on herb will serve to attract more tourists, as in Jamaica, the most toured island in the world.  And it will encourage more creativity from our artisans, writers, professors, students, politicians, and business persons, eliminating this copy-cat, crab-in-a-bucket syndrome.  Needless to say, it will free up thousands of young black men in jail unnecessarily, adding to the pool of human resources for our nation to employ. And most appealing to any politician is its earning potential as a taxable substance.

However, if legalisation is too much to ask of our government then, at least, update the laws to reflect a more relative punishment, for such a minor offence.  Herb farmers don’t deserve the fate of cocaine dealers, nor does a college student who is caught with a spliff.  It wouldn’t hurt to be practical with your power and considerate of your subjects, nor will it kill you to rule within reason.  Now would it?

And stop harass the Ras!