WINDHOEK – Justice minister Sakeus Shanghala said that Namibia is not ready to legalise marijuana as the country is not ready to deal with societal psychotic-prone symptoms associated with the drug.
Shanghala made these remarks in parliament recently in response to the call to legalise marijuana. “Instead of focusing on the legalisation of marijuana, I recommend that we first solve our ever-growing alcohol abuse problem,” said the minister.
Shanghala reasoned that if Namibia gets to a point where it is able to manage one of the most devastating legal drugs in the world, alcohol, only then could the country be ready to manage the effects of legalised marijuana.
“As it is, we do not have sufficient alcohol rehabilitation centres and countrywide there are only 19 registered psychiatrists. We hardly have enough psychiatrists to handle even criminal psychiatric evaluations, how are we going to deal with an explosion of psychotic-prone symptoms in society?” noted Shanghala.
Although the drug has potential therapeutic effects to alleviate onerous symptoms of diseases such as cancer, Shanhgala said that there are sufficient legal and efficacious medicines that do what cannabis is purported to do, adding that cases that are reported indicate that the vast majority are using the drug for recreational use and not medicinal purposes.
Making his argument, the minister said that marijuana is addictive and it is known to cause schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. In addition, it has detrimental effects on cognition.
“We hardly even talk of mental health issues. We are in denial about depression. Imagine the explosion of depression cases flowing from the use of marijuana if legalised,” noted Shanghala. The minister added that those found with the drug are subject to a fine not exceeding N$30 000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 15 years, or to both such fine and imprisonment.
In April, Ganja Users of Namibia (GUN) and scores of Namibian Rastafarians protested against the prohibition of cannabis, appealing to Namibian authorities to emulate South Africa and other countries that have decriminalised the recreational and other use of marijuana. GUN reasoned that the drug can be used for medicinal purposes as it can heal a lot of illnesses and has the potential to boost the country’s economy.