Marijuana Peddlers, Consumers Oppose Blanket Legalisation in The Gambia
Friday 28 August | Yero S. Bah
Following the demised of dictatorship and the emergence of democracy and greater freedom more than three years ago in The Gambia, marijuana abuse by Gambian youth
is believed to be on the rise in the country.
Well, GunjurOnline visited various local neighborhoods and ghettos in the Greater Banjul Area to gauge the views of drug peddlers and end users on August 27, 2020 over the possible legalisation of the dreadful marijuana in the country as the debates to legalize weed or not continues to rage in recent times. According communities and anti-marijuana advocates, this is visibly evident as youth are seen openly smoking marijuana and selling it on the streets of Serekunda and all other major cities in the Gambia.
Besides, statistics from the Gambia’s only mental health institution, Tanka Tanka, says
about 60% of their patients are drug related patients.
Meanwhile, the Drug Law Enforcement Agency said that, their struggles to make the Gambia a drug-free nation is hampered by the uncooperative attitudes of abusers who think that it is within their rights to abuse banned substances.This has prompted many Gambians to raise questions on whether marijuana should be legalised or not in the country.
For Momodou B. Barry, an Ex-National Intelligence Officer, said legalizing marijuana would be the deadliest mistake that The Gambia will ever make saying Gambians can easily abuse everything and lack the much needed civic awareness compared to many other western societies. “Under no circumstances should we legalize cannabis in this country.” he asserts.The former Intelligence Officser said that the new democratic dispensation has serious implications on the crime rate in these few years saying the crimes are mostly committed by drug addicts.
His words: “The security agents are now powerless to curb the peddling, use and abuse of drugs in The Gambia.” he argues. Mr Barry notes that the police should be given the needed powers to conduct arrests, investigations and prosecute drug abusers and peddlers in our society in order to effectively curb the drug menace. Mr. Barry believes that, it is possible that some security personnel are sometimes involved in the trafficking of marijuana, making the fight against the dreadful drug more difficult for other genuine security agents.
For Demba Touray, a van driver, poor civic education plays a negative role in the manner youth abuse marijuana in this country saying the police should be given enough powers to control the peddling and use of marijuana in The Gambia. “I have witnessed a case where a plain-clothed officer wanted to arrest two people who were in possession of marijuana, they refused arrest, scolded the officer and wanted to beat him up, it was us the civilians who helped the police officer to escape from them” he points out.
The van driver wished that peddlers and smokers caught should be jailed in order to curb the menace in society suggesting that they should be taken to Janjanbureh prison to be
trained as agriculturists while serving their jail terms, believing that greed and corruption are key factors that hamper the fight against marijuana in The Gambia. Surprisingly enough, cannabis peddlers and end users are opposed to the idea of a blanket legalisation of cannabis in the Gambia claiming Gambians can easily abuse it to their detriment.
“We need laws that can control the use of marijuana where peddlers will be given licenses and allocated formal selling centers in country so that they can pay tax to the economy and consumers must not carry more than 10 grams of it.” some peddlers and smokers who spoker to GunjurOnline suggested.
An anonymous source had this to say: “smoking marijuana makes me feel calm, and I
can enjoy the whole day without bad feelings towards others". For Bubacarr Baldeh, cannabis causes him no harm, instead helps him in his long drives between Gambia and Sierra Leone. His words: "I enjoy driving my truck from the Gambia to Sierra Leone whenever I smoke marijuana, it does not cause any abnormalities in me.”
However, Marijuana users argue that, the relationship between them and the police is that of hostility whilst some of these marijuana users admitted bribing police officers whenever they are caught with the drug and before long they are released from police custody. For most of these drug abusers expect authorities to come up with tangible drug control policies saying no one should be in possession of more than 10 grams of marijuana, anything more than that the individual should be charged for peddling drugs in the Gambia, drug users and peddlers told GunjurOnline.
“I saw a drug officer and wife selling rose, some officers will confiscate drugs from us and give it to their wives or brothers to sell it again” one marijuana smoker explains.
Last year, a high ranking official from the Drug Law Enforcement Agency was once quoted lamenting over the threats security officers face on their line of duty following the advent of democracy in the country, saying it is a problem for all of my staff to embark on their normal routine assignments because they fear that they could come under threat due to the violent nature of some of the youths. “It is everyone’s responsibility to support the Drug Law Enforcement Agency in order to win the fight against cannabis in this country.” the official added.