Reps decide on marijuana bill, sponsors react

Reps decide on marijuana bill, Marwa, sponsors react

The House of Representatives voted down a bill seeking to legalise the cultivation, sale and use of cannabis, also known as marijuana, for commercial purposes.

Apart from the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, and the sponsors, all those who spoke at the second reading criticised the bill.

The criticisms against the proposal forced the sponsors to demand that it be stepped down for review, a prayer that the lawmakers unanimously granted.

The sponsors had clashed on Wednesday over legislation.

Two members of the House, Benjamin Kalu and Olumide Osoba, had sponsored separate bills seeking to amend the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act to expand the scope of the anti-narcotics agency to issue licenses for the cultivation, sale, and use of marijuana.

When the bill was brought up for second reading in plenary on Wednesday, another member of the House, Miriam Onuoha, objected that the content of the bill was identical to hers.

Reps decide on marijuana bill, sponsors react

The Cannabis Control Bill, 2020, sponsored by Onuoha, is titled “A Bill for an Act to Regulate the Cultivation, Possession, Availability, and Trade of Cannabis for Medical and Research Use, and Related Purposes.”

The Speaker had in his ruling asked both sides to liaise with the Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata, so as to identify the differences and similarities between the bills ahead of their sitting on Thursday.

On Thursday, the two bills, which had different titles, were harmonised.

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While Kalu’s and Osoba’s bills had the same title, Onuoha’s was titled ‘A Bill for an Act to Decriminalise the Growth and Use of Cannabis, to Establish a System for the Registration and Licencing of Cannabis Growers, Users, Control to Legalise the Growth, Sale, and Use of Cannabis, and to Set out a Legal Framework for the Registration and Licencing of Cannabis Growers and Producers in Nigeria; and for Related Matters.’

Those who spoke against it, especially the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, and Majority Leader, Mohammed Monguno, condemned the proposed decriminalisation of cannabis.

Gbajabiamila, who presided over the session and had defended the proposal, noted that it must have been opposed due to the word “decriminalise” in the title of the bill, which he said was not there earlier on Wednesday.

While Kalu and Onuoha were unanimous on the call for the bill’s withdrawal, the former noted that the rejection was due to the harmonisation of the bills, noting that they would be re-presented separately after a review.

The media had reported that the House was proposing the legalisation of cannabis cultivation and trading, also known as hemp and marijuana, for medical and cosmetic use, research, and revenue generation in Nigeria.

In the bill, Onuoha said the objectives of the bill, among others, include providing for the “regulation of the cultivation, possession, processing, availability, and trade of cannabis for medicinal, and research purposes, among others.”

Meanwhile, Chairman/Executive of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Brig. General Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) commended members and leaders of the House of Representatives for rejecting yet another attempt to push through the bill.

The NDLEA boss in a reaction said the decision by a majority of the lawmakers to reject the bill would further strengthen the gains so far made in the renewed war against drug abuse and trafficking in the country.

He said the 2018 drug survey figure of 10.6 million Nigerians abusing cannabis alone was enough to sound the alarm bell, adding that the strong nexus between drug abuse and the security challenges across the country is incontrovertible.