April 12, 2024

The Legislature and Judiciary have collided on the law that allows for the cultivation of Cannabis in Ghana for industrial and medicinal purposes. Also known as Marijuana or Indian hemp, and in the local parlance as ‘ntampi’, ‘wee’, ‘bonsam tawa’ among many more.

The disagreement between the two arms of government stem from the Supreme Court’s recent judgment that the law that permitted the Minister for the Interior to grant an entity license to cultivate ‘wee’ was unconstitutional.

On the floor of the House on Thursday, July 6, 2023 a bill seeking to amend the existing Narcotics Control Commission law was read for the first time and referred to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, which has a week to report back to the House.

CORRECT AN ERROR

In his remarks, the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Babgin, indicated that the House was not seeking to “review” the decision of the Supreme Court but instead to “correct” an error.

He tasked the leadership of the committees of Health and Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to work together on the bill, which is just a section.

“It is a matter that is dear to my heart personally and I think the country is losing a lot as a result of this [Supreme Court] decision. We need to work expeditiously to rectify the wrong,” he said.

He hoped that the three arms of government would work together to clear doubts about each other’s work before taking decisions.

Titled Narcotics Control Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2023 laid by the Minister for the Interior, Ambrose Dery, the House has set in motion steps to bring back the section the Supreme Court struck out upon a suit filed by one Ezuame Mannan against the Attorney-General.

A seven-member Supreme Court panel in a 4:3 majority decision, declared on Wednesday, July 28, 2022 that Section 43 of Act 1019 violated Article 106 of the 1992 Constitution and was thus null and void.

Section 43 of Act 1019 (1) stipulates that “the Minister, on the recommendation of the Commission, may grant a License for the cultivation of Cannabis, popularly referred to as “wee” in Ghana, which is not more than 0.3% THC content on a dry weight basis for industrial purposes, for obtaining fibre or seed for medicinal purposes.”

Subsection 2, which is the last under the section, says “For the avoidance of doubt, a License granted under subsection (1) shall not be for the cultivation of Cannabis for recreational use.”

Dissatisfied with the judgment, the Attorney-General filed a review application urging the apex court to reverse their earlier decision, which had occasioned a “miscarriage of justice,” but was not successful.

AMENDMENT

At the commencement of public business in Parliament on Thursday, the Minister for the Interior, who moved the motion for the amendment, expressed his disagreement with the declaration by the Supreme Court.

He told the House that the amendment would introduce Section 43 “exactly the way it was.”

According to him, though he respects the judgment of the court, he “disagrees,” arguing that the reason given by the apex court was in error.

He said on the floor that the reason given by the court that the particular section was not debated by Parliament defeated the consensus building in the work of the Legislature.

It was his argument that once a matter is for the consideration of the House, it is opened for debate, during which not only opposing views are expressed.

He explained further that even without contrary views, the Speaker asks the question and a decision is taken.

“So to, therefore, say that Section 43 was unconstitutional because there was no debate was in my humble opinion a grievous error, but because we also consider this to be a public health issue and the benefit of medicinal and industrial, as well as economic value, this amendment is necessary to let us put back what has been in my view erroneously declared unconstitutional,” he moved.

NO LEGALIZATION

The Minister explained that the Narcotics Control Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2023 does not seek to legalise the recreational use of Cannabis, but to allow the minister to issue a special License for Cannabis produced to a certain specification.

He argued that the idea was to move in tandem with the modern approach to the production of this Cannabis to specifications for industrial and medicinal use.

He cited that a number of African countries, including South Africa, Lesotho, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia were doing the same.

ECONOMIC BENEFIT

The Minister outlined the fact that there was economic benefit to be derived from the specific cannabis to be produced under the bill, stating that “a billion dollars is out there, and countries like Canada, the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina and Peru have all identified and are all going along to make sure they achieve what is useful.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: The Chronicle

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