Nigerian cannabis laws are tough. As such, there’s no official hemp industry, despite the fact that the plant is grown widely across the country. Politicians have highlighted the profit-making potential of cannabis, but as yet, nothing has changed. Despite these laws, over 10% of adults use cannabis regularly.
- CBD Products
- Recreational cannabis
- Medicinal cannabis
- Cannabis laws in Nigeria
- Can you possess and use cannabis in Nigeria?
- Can you sell cannabis in Nigeria?
- Can you grow cannabis in Nigeria?
- Is CBD legal in Nigeria?
- Can cannabis seeds be sent to Nigeria?
- Medicinal cannabis in Nigeria
- Industrial hemp in Nigeria
- Politics and cannabis in Nigeria
- Good to know
- Cannabis history
- Cultural attitudes
- Does Nigeria have a problem with cannabis?
- Will it be legalised in the future?
Cannabis laws in Nigeria
Can you possess and use cannabis in Nigeria?
It’s illegal to possess or use cannabis in Nigeria, in accordance with the Dangerous Drugs Act. This law specifically lists ‘Indian Hemp’ as a dangerous drug, stating that the term refers to “any plant or part of a plant of the genus cannabis”.
The Indian Hemp Act further clarifies the situation – stating that possession of the substance is an offence, which can be punished with “imprisonment for a term of not less than four years”. However, if the offender is seventeen or under, the sentence is adjusted to 21 strokes of the cane, plus two years in a borstal or similar institution, or a fine of N200.
Individuals can also be prosecuted for possessing equipment associated with the usage of cannabis (for example, a smoking pipe). If caught, they could be given a prison sentence of not less than five years.
In reality, however, cases of possession and use rarely make it to court, due to widespread corruption. In fact, despite the harshness of the law, use of cannabis is common. A report in The Telegraph found that the country ranked third in the world in terms of numbers of people who consume it.
Burden of proving lack of knowledge
Nigerian law also states that, if the individual claims they had no knowledge of the cannabis in their possession (for example, if it was discovered on their premises and they hadn’t known it was there), the burden of proof lies with them. They must prove their innocence, not the other way around.
The main body of authority for drug policy and enforcement is the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). This agency liaises with the US government and regional authorities to tackle drugs problems in West Africa. However, their power is limited as they are underfunded.
In addition to its own laws, Nigeria is also a signatory to the 1961 Single Convention of Narcotic Drugs, and the 1988 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances.
Can you sell cannabis in Nigeria?
According to the Indian Hemp Act, anyone who imports or sells cannabis is considered “guilty of an offence”. If caught, they can be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of “not less than 21 years”. Likewise, any offender caught exporting the substance out of Nigeria is also subject to a 21-year prison term.
While this may seem like a harsh sentence, it’s important to remember that prior to 1975, those caught trafficking cannabis were given the death sentence.
Can you grow cannabis in Nigeria?
Planting or growing cannabis in Nigeria is regarded as a serious offence. The Indian Hemp Act states that “any person who knowingly plants or cultivates any plant of the genus cannabis shall be (…) sentenced either to death or to imprisonment for a term of not less than 21 years.”
Despite this, cannabis is grown widely throughout the country. It’s a favoured crop for farmers, as it generates a much larger profit than other plants. Most cultivation takes place in the states of Edo, Ekiti, Delta, Ondo, Osun, Ogun and Oyo. The tropical climate here provides the ideal conditions for the plants to thrive.
Is CBD legal in Nigeria?
Can cannabis seeds be sent to Nigeria?
As cannabis seeds are considered ‘part of the plant of the genus cannabis’, they are also illegal in Nigeria. They cannot be mailed into the country via the post, nor sent out to other locations.
Medicinal cannabis in Nigeria
The law makes no distinction between recreational or medicinal use of cannabis, and both are regarded as illegal activities. However, in reality, the situation isn’t nearly as clear-cut.
According to The Guardian (Nigeria), some doctors (who prefer to remain anonymous) prescribe cannabis to their patients. Researchers found that while many oncologists in the country don’t feel adequately informed about cannabis, many often discuss it in the clinic, and close to half recommend it to patients in their care.
Despite a move to establish a medical cannabis program in 2019, as announced by Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, the Nigerian NDLEA has yet to grant a license or approval to any person or corporate organisation for the cultivation and production of medical cannabis oil and flowers.
Industrial hemp in Nigeria
Currently, cultivating industrial hemp in Nigeria is illegal. However, experts within the industry, not to mention politicians and renewable energy specialists, have highlighted the problems of eradicating hemp in the country.
Many comment on the plant’s economic potential and its numerous practical purposes; such as making fabric, rope and paper. Professor Oluwadare Olufemi, from the Department of Forestry Resources Management (University of Ibadan), told The Punch: “Cannabis is a very good fibre for paper making, but because of the abuse of the plant, it is not encouraged here in Nigeria for commercial plantation.”
He added: “With the current cost of pulp in the global market, Nigeria will earn a lot. If we look at it holistically, a metric tonne (1,000 kilogrammes) of pulp from cannabis is worth as much as $500 in the global market. We have the resources to make Nigeria a net exporter of pulp (…) if Nigeria paper industries are well developed, they can compete favourably well with the oil and gas sector. It can generate over 500,000 jobs.”
Politics and cannabis in Nigeria
While some political parties in Nigeria are anti-cannabis use, others openly advocate changing the current cannabis laws.
In 2018, presidential hopeful Omoyele Sowore stated that he’d make Nigeria a major cannabis-exporting hub if he got elected to office. He stated that: “People are making billions out of that particular plant that is very potent in Nigeria. We should be focusing on it (…) Instead of chasing after people who are growing weed (we should be) chasing after our politicians who are smoking cocaine in their houses.”
Likewise, the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo called for cannabis use to be decriminalised. In an interview with BBC Newsday, he commented: “I was in prison as a political prisoner and I interacted with these people, some of them just for being caught with a wrap of marijuana, they’re put in jail. They came out of jail more hardened, more hardened criminals than when they went in.”
Good to know
If you are travelling to Nigeria (or are a resident of the country), it is useful to know the following facts:
- Cannabis is the most commonly used drug in the country. In 2018, a study found that 10.8% of Nigeria’s adult population had used it in the last year.
- It’s much more commonly used by men than women. According to statistics, usage was seven times higher among males.
- The average user in Nigeria spends N363 a day on cannabis, which is around $1.15. Although this seems low, it works out as 2% of the minimum monthly wage for a full-time worker in the country.
It’s believed that cannabis arrived fairly late to Nigeria, especially when compared to the rest of the continent. Many other African countries have been using it for centuries.
Historians think that cannabis entered the country with soldiers and sailors, returning from conflict zones in North Africa and the Far East after World War II. There certainly doesn’t seem to be any evidence of it having been used in Nigeria prior to this.
After its introduction in the 1940s, cannabis cultivation swiftly became widespread. In fact, use of the substance became so common that the authorities decided to take action. Since then, Nigeria has been fighting a largely unsuccessful war against cannabis; with farmers cultivating it across the country, despite facing harsh legal penalties if they are caught.
Unlike many other African cultures, there are no traditional or religious practices associated with cannabis. It’s a relatively new substance for the people of Nigeria, but despite this, a thriving culture has grown around it. The laws are tough, but haven’t stopped people from using it on a daily basis.
Several Nigerian musicians (such as Fela Kuti) openly support the use of cannabis, and it’s more commonly used in urban areas, by young adults. The plant goes by a variety of names, such as Indian Hemp, Igbo and Nwonkaka.
‘Samuel’, an advocate for cannabis who calls himself a ‘weed connoisseur’, said in an interview with Pulse: “Everyone knows someone that smokes marijuana, and users range from medical doctors to lawyers, traders, students, artists and basically anyone that is interested in getting to a point in their mind that they never knew existed.”
He also highlighted that people from all backgrounds use it, and that the weed community is “growing exponentially” each year.
However, this positive opinion isn’t shared by all. For example, in 2012, NDLEA chairman Ahmadu Giade linked cannabis with crimes including armed robbery, rape and murder.
Does Nigeria have a problem with cannabis?
Although the laws are strict regarding cannabis sale and cultivation, the authorities tend to focus more on other drugs, such as heroin. Raids on cannabis plantations do occur, but farmers tend to see the potential profit of growing cannabis as worth the risk.
However, this widespread cultivation is environmentally problematic. It’s believed that over half the deforestation activities that occurred in Nigeria during 2010 and 2012 were to clear the land for cannabis plantations. This had devastating impact on some of Nigeria’s already-threatened species, including the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees.
Corruption is also a serious problem. Police seem open to bribery, and more serious corruption at government-level means that some major drug trafficking cases are ignored. This means that cartels gain a monopoly over the black market, which results in a variety of problems, such as lack of quality control and a rise in violence.
Will it be legalised in the future?
Other African countries have legalised cannabis for medicinal purposes, so it seems likely that Nigeria will eventually do the same. Likewise, they may bring back the industrial hemp market, in a bid to boost their economy.
It’s unlikely that the government will be decriminalising recreational use any time soon, though.
- Disclaimer:While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended to provide legal advice, as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.