Cannabis in Nigeria – Laws, Use, and History

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.

    • Capital
    • Abuja
    • Population
    • 206,153,000
    • CBD Products
    • Illegal
    • Recreational cannabis
    • Illegal
    • Medicinal cannabis
    • Illegal

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.

Drugs enforcement

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?

The law states that any ‘part of the plant of the genus cannabis’ is illegal to use, purchase or sell. This includes CBD, even though CBD doesn’t contain enough THC to produce a ‘high’.

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.

Cannabis history

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.

Cultural attitudes

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.

Comments

32 thoughts on “Cannabis in Nigeria – Laws, Use, and History”

  1. Ohans Stanley

    Nice article please am a cannabis user in Nigeria. Delta state in particular, you did a nice research though but please can you throw more light. I will like to know how correct this is. Here we have two major types of cannabis , there is the one we call “igbo” or just “weed” this one has an aroma that lingers for some time.(some say offensive aroma) while another one we caLl “skunk” this one does not have a lingering aroma and its not really that common(although the demand for it is high in places like Lagos). please am a bit confused as to know which is the indica or sativa amongst them.

    1. The smell is not specific to any strain most times. the curing process which involves compressing in the case of skunk affects the odor that is produced when it is burnt. sativa and indica can be differentiated by their leaf. indica has broad leaves while sativa has thin narrow leaves

      1. kay_booming

        Indica is the normal igbo that smells..that is cheap..sativa is the sk..a high level of thl is present

    2. Seun Daniel

      I think what we smoke here, am currently in Delta State is the Sativa Strain. Especially if you buying igbo, or local weed. But if you buying those ones with the funny names like Arizona, those are hybrid, they’ve mixed or brewed it with something else, I’ve heard cause am not originally from Delta, so where I come from which is Kwara, I heard for the hybrid strain they soak it in gin, to increase the potency. Particularly I think the processing of Weed in Nigeria is poor and we should all be on the lookout to what we smoking. This line of thought got me thinking about growing my own weed for personal use, like stop till mine grows. Reply if you think its crazy. By the way am glad that Nigerians are speaking about this discrimination.

  2. Well researched article! Big thumbs up.

    We hope for legalization soon but it seems to be a far off concept as the leaders believe bogus ideas with no inch of research backing such as the statement by the ndlea chairman.

    1. It’s sad that these people who make all these policies behave or portray traits that indicate the use of harder and more dangerous substances like heroine and meth.
      It would be better if marijuana is legalised and properly controlled because as far as the use of this substance goes, it is on the increase.

  3. Thatstonergirl

    Well, I came here to find out why my friends in the US seem to smoke the bud only while we be smoking the leaf. Our plants don’t produce buds?

    1. Very wise Sister, you know it’s sad, they still provide us leaves in Naija, no advancement.

  4. Owerri grower

    It’s cuz here the grow both male and female plants so buds are small and full of seeds. Grow only female plants for large buds high in thc!

  5. Free the herbs and sack that illiterate NDLEA boss he does not know what he is saying,typical mallam

    1. just take a look at the person in charge of NDLEA, how can he be comparing weed to rape?

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi there,

      Unfortunately, legal restrictions mean we can’t answer grow related questions or give grow advice on this blog. However, we do have the Sensi Seeds Forum where you can ask questions and share your experiences with a thriving community of cannabis and gardening enthusiasts, so please don’t hesitate to join the community!

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  6. Everydaysmoker

    I’m gonna start growing actual weed in Nigeria not none of the SK shit or stuff u have with seeds in n shit. What u call loud in Nigeria. Looking to rent a big space solely for purposes of growin Uk bud

  7. why do you do things like you don’t smoke too, see if u legalize ganga in nigeria there would be more creative people in the country, u people can’t understand hw the thinz are##

  8. I think the way people view weed and its users in Nigeria is changing fast. More people (even in the older community) are beginning to understand that contrary to previous opinions, weed is not literally harmful after all. And also it’s worth to mention that there are many strains in the country right now.

    PS… I think Mr. NDLEA boss must have used marijuana back in the day and raped girls afterwards, and now he is shamefully blaming it on the ganja.

    #straight_from_abk

  9. I think the way people view weed and its users in Nigeria is changing fast. More people (even in the older community) are beginning to understand that contrary to previous opinions, weed is not literally harmful after all. And also it’s worth to mention that there are many strains in the country right now.

    PS… I think Mr. NDLEA boss must have used marijuana back in the day and raped girls afterwards, and now he is shamefully blaming it on the ganja.

    #straight_from_abk

  10. Hotheadburner

    We need a Cannabis forum for Smoke heads in Nigeria. We need to get better at this growing thing fast. We still smoke sticks, stems and seed which is really effed up. Been testing out growing but getting nutes is such a kick in the nuts. Thinking on my next trip to the 6 I get all I need, Fox Farm and all. Disgusting that we cant get the good stuff, I mean in a country like Nigeria you can get Worm Casting, I had to go deep into Ogun state to get good compost and soil some dude claim housed hundreds of worms. Azomite can only be gotten in commercial quantities and NPK mix for Vegging and flowering can only be gotten in 50kg packs. Sigh, dont get me started on grow lights. I am certain I will crack it in a couple of months, just move to a bigger house with a room I can dedicate to experimenting. Till then yall stay high.

    *might just give updates on progress*

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi there,

      Just wanted to say thanks for your comment, wishing you loads of luck and please do update us if you get the chance!

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

    1. Hi @RAMI , its good to see someone make an effort for the #420Culture. If you’re in the Krock City, we could linkup and share ideas + spliffs
      ciao

  11. Excellent Info Here! Nice Job, Well Done… The advocacy groups in Nigeria how do we connect with them and does anyone have any idea on the current progress for legalization. Nigeria needs something quick because if we continue to rely on the oil we maybe finished.

    Keep up the good work.

  12. Pls let stop taking weed our government should stop and start arrest ing those who plant for illegal stuff weed is dangur

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    Sensi Seeds

    The Sensi Seeds Editorial team has been built throughout our more than 30 years of existence. Our writers and editors include botanists, medical and legal experts as well as renown activists the world over including Lester Grinspoon, Micha Knodt, Robert Connell Clarke, Maurice Veldman, Sebastian Maríncolo, James Burton and Seshata.
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    Maurice Veldman

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