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Users of cannabis in West Africa, higher than global numbers combined – UNODC

West Africa has been identified as the region with the highest maximum use of cannabis globally. The total number of people from West Africa who use cannabis are more than triple the global number, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has said in a press release copied to ghanabusinessnews.com.

The release says, the use of cannabis in western Africa is much higher than what people use across the world combined.

It said, 12.4 per cent of people in the region had used cannabis in 2014, whereas only 3.9 per cent of the global population had done so at the same period, the release noted.

To this extent, some organizations, the West Africa Commission on Drugs, UNAIDS and the Global Commission on Drug Policy have been pushed to present a drug model law for West Africa, for ministers of health of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the World Health Assembly in Geneva on May 22, 2019.

According to the release the increase of drug usage and drug trafficking in the region has been attributed to the ineffectiveness of drug laws in West Africa, which is threatening stability.

It explained that, the  model drug law provides concrete templates that countries can adapt to reform their drug laws—legal provisions and how they relate to international legal obligations, as well as useful commentary that explains different options and reasons for choosing the proposed legal solution.

The model drug law also offers a measured way for decriminalizing drug use and possession for personal use by introducing thresholds, thereby allowing people who use drugs to access health services and seek support.

The model drug law acknowledges that barriers must also be removed so that the millions of people in need of health services, including people living with cancer or with HIV, can access the treatment and care they need.

The menace is not only causing problems to users, but also putting pressure on some facilities like the prisons due to the frequent drug related offenses individuals are charged with according to Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria and Chair of the West Africa Commission on Drugs.

He urged leaders to use a different approach in dealing with drug users rather than throwing them in prison and making the place overcrowded.

He said, “People who use drugs need help and care, not punishment. Stigmatizing them and locking them up in ever-increasing numbers only worsens health issues and puts enormous pressure on the already over-stretched criminal justice systems,”.

While presenting the report to the ministers of health on the margins of the seventy-second session of the World Health Assembly, Gunilla Carlsson, UNAIDS Executive Director advised the ministers to take action to resolve human right issues.  She said, “Countries need to take a human rights approach to HIV and drug use and to make sure that the health and well-being of people come first,”.

She continued to say that, “We know that harm reduction works, we know that decriminalization works―countries cannot continue to disregard the evidence and urgently need to take action.”

By Asabea Akonor

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