Legal Implications Of Possession and Use Of Marijuana In Nigeria

Marijuana is a dried form of a plant referred to a Cannabis Sativa. It is known for its calming and mind altering effects and is by smoking by inhalation of the emission when burned (Smoking) and consumption in cooked food and baked treats. Locally, it has a plethora of terms used to refer to it; the popular ones are, in no particular order, Indian hemp, weed and marijuana. For the purpose of this article it will be referred to as “weed”

It is not news that weed, even though illegal, is widely used in Nigeria and in consequence widely grown, transported, sold and bought throughout the country by both the old and young classes of people; for leisure as well as for ease and numbing of nerves and or senses.

Knowing that something so popularly practiced is illegal, it is not less than pertinent to know the law concerning it, thereby arming yourself with the knowledge of the extent of your rights in that area, especially if you are among the group of people who use it, whether occasionally or regularly.

So, the pertinent question is, in the probable circumstance that you are caught in possession of weed or in the very act of using it, then what. What can happen is that you can get arrested and charged with possession and or use of Indian hemp. Upon conviction, you will be liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than four years without the option of fine by virtue of Section 5 of the Indian Hemp Act:

5. Smoking or unlawful possession of Indian hemp

(1)      Any person who-

(a)      smokes any Indian hemp; or

(b)      knowingly has any Indian hemp in his possession, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than four years without the option of a fine

Now, just in case you’re thinking that you’ve found a loophole because it says “smoke” specifically let me bring your attention to the “or” in between the “smoking” and “unlawful possession” written there, meaning that if you are caught eating, drinking or even sniffing it, that could be taken to mean that you are in possession of it, thus in contravention of the law and liable to prosecution. Same goes for it being found in your system unless you can prove otherwise which brings me to the next point.

Where you are found using or in illegal possession of weed, burden of proving that such possession is not illegal would be solely on you. This means that where you are caught with weed and subsequently prosecuted, it is automatically assumed that you are illegally in possession of it and you have to prove otherwise to the court. For the sake of clarity, legal possession of weed is when you have some form of legal authority to be in such possession e.g. by virtue of your job as an NDLEA official, etc.

The good news is that the prosecution will have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you were aware of your possession of weed as the provision states “knowingly has Indian Hemp in his possession”. This is kinda your only out, use it wisely.

Where the individual in possession of weed is a child or young person as defined by law (not more than 17 years) he shall be liable to twenty one strokes of cane (Ouch!) and either a fine of N200 or two years in a borstal or a similar institution (a borstal is like a juvenile institution or a detention center for those too young to be sent to prison).

Let us delve further a little. As much as emphasis has been made on the illegality of use and possession of marijuana, please take note that there are other related acts that constitute drug crimes such as possession of utensils used in smoking weed, Use of premises for sales, smoking, preparation, planting and cultivation of weed; planting, cultivation, preparation, sale and purchase of weed, import, export and transportation of weed, concealment or disguise of true nature, source, location of weed. There’s more, trust me.

There is an exception however, the provision does not apply to the possession of any medical preparation of Indian Hemp but be reminded that the burden of proving that would be on you.

In conclusion, you will not die if you decide to stay away from weed, at least in Nigeria, there are other “healthy” ways to relieve stress. Nevertheless, where you choose to be young, wild and free, take note of the laws aforementioned and brace yourself for whatever may or may not happen.

Written by Mbachu Chinenye V.

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