Last week, two Rwandans ascended to the higher levels of multilateral organisations with Ms. Mbaranga Gasarabwe appointed First Assistant Secretary-General for Safety and Security at the UN and Dr. Richard Sezibera acceding to the position of Secretary-General of the East African Community.
Despite all the speculation to the contrary, rotation rules for the position were followed in the end. Last week also, The East African newspaper reported that Rwanda was in the process of legalising marijuana (many will know it as ‘weed’) for medical purposes, which got me thinking about this controversial drug and the uncompromising views that are held by so many on this subject.
If one were to go by the number of stories in this paper (let alone other media outlets) on police bursts of stashes of weed, arrests of dealers [and sometimes consumers], police pronouncements on the violence inducing effects of the drug, clerical condemnation and continuous campaigns against use of weed carried out by various bodies, it may seem that the greatest threat to the security, moral fabric and future of Rwanda is marijuana.
Before we examine the veracity of any of these claims, the reader needs to be clear on one thing – the growing, sale, distribution, storing and consumption of marijuana is illegal in the Republic of Rwanda.
Puffing that weed can get you a prison sentence of between three months to five years and the sentences get longer if you’re doing any of the other activities mentioned in the preceding line.
Also there’s the risk of an embarrassing appearance on TVR evening news clutching the incriminating stash as a policeman crows with delight into the camera.
That said, is marijuana really as dangerous as we have been made to believe? Oddly, it is fairly harmless even when compared with legal substances like alcohol and tobacco.
There is no scientific evidence to show that it increases aggression levels in consumers and it is nearly impossible to overdose it in the same way that one may overindulge alcohol and get alcoholic poisoning. Smoking of cigarettes will increase your chances of lung cancer in a way that weed would never be able to.
Nor is it as addictive as nicotine. Marijuana has medical properties and is sometimes prescribed by doctors to treat several conditions [in countries where this is legal]. It would take a long stretch of imagination to picture a doctor somewhere writing down a prescription for waragi or intore.
So it seems that this illegal substance has positive applications and at the very least is not any worse than anything already legal and on the market.
Having done some quick and dirty research on the subject, it becomes clear that weed may be getting a rap disproportionate to anything that the science on it tells us.
Even claims about it being a ‘gateway’ drug [a drug that increases chances of users getting addicted to ‘harder’ drugs like heroin] are in dispute. Some have argued that because marijuana is illegal, users are then more likely to find themselves in a milieu where similarly illegal but harder drugs are to be found.
If these dissenters are correct, then it makes more sense to legalise weed and simply control where and who can consume it. This would certainly free up law enforcement resources where the difference can be used for proper police research into criminality.