As the value of the global marijuana market is set to hit US$146.4 billion in the next six years, Ghana is yet to take economic advantage of the replenishable resource to generate income and for employment.
However, pressure continues to increase on government to do so in line with the trend worldwide and the country’s desire to step up its foreign exchange earnings at a time that both gold and cocoa prices – two of Ghana’s three main export commodities – are continuing to show fragility.
The argument of proponents for the move centres around the fact that being essentially an agricultural crop, cannabis cultivation would generate revenues for Ghana’s farming population, which is large but relatively poor, thus having a similar positive effect as cocoa cultivation has in rural Ghana.
The other two main export commodities, gold and crude oil are produced by enclave industries that employ and directly benefit only a few Ghanaians.
Instructively, the influential Ghana Standards Authority has also joined the growing list of advocates for marijuana to be legalised for medicinal purposes and for export.
Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament in September 2018, GSA’s CEO, Prof. Alex Dodoo said, “the economic potential of marijuana for the country is huge”, stressing that “it is about time authorities came up with a firm decision on taking advantage of the herb”.
Conversely however, Ghanaian society is largely conservative and frets that legalization of cannabis cultivation would inevitably be accompanied by increased local use and resultantly enhancement of the societal ills generally associated with its use.
Legal marijuana business has been gaining traction in recent times globally, due to high demand among consumers and increasing legalization of recreational and medical marijuana in various countries.
So far, some countries including South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Swaziland have all legalized the plant.
The Durban City Breweries in South Africa has recently said, it will use cannabis to produce beer, replacing hops, which is in the same plant group with cannabis.
This week, Zimbabwe’s government has also backed calls for the country to grow cannabis for export to take advantage of the growing global demand.
Instructively, a Canadian firm has since approached the Harare government with a proposal to produce the cannabis in the planned economic zones in a development that could earn the country about US$100 million annually.
Recently, Canada legalized cannabis entirely, which has now led many other countries around the world to consider either recreational or medical legalisation.
Argentina and Australia are amongst some of the recent countries to legalise medical cannabis, while European nations like the Netherlands and Italy are beginning to explore their options within the medical market.
The United Kingdom and the U.S have also legalised the plant and are encouraging citizens to venture into cultivation.
Meanwhile, Ghana is yet to take a bold decision on legislation to enable individuals and businesses to apply for licenses to cultivate cannabis for medicinal or scientific use.
The global legal marijuana market is expected to reach US$146.4 billion by end of 2025, according to a recent report by Grand View Research.
Marijuana application for disorders such as cancer, mental conditions, chronic pain and others is expected to propel revenue growth globally in the near future.
By Wisdom Jonny-Nuekpe