OPINION: The ordeal of Kwaw Kese and the grand debate on Marijuana use

Entertainment of Saturday, 3 January 2015

Source: Michael Eli Dokosi

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He didn’t see it coming, if he did he would have been better psyched for the tough journey but Kwaw Kese real name Emmanuel Botchwey would never be the same irrespective of what face he attempts to put in public.

Alone he surely must ask himself how after a performance at the Luv FM Old Skool Reunion jam he came to be accosted by police in the Ashanti Regional capital of Kumasi for smoking spliff (Marijuana leaves rolled into a cigarette for smoking) on November 22, 2014.

Clearly when we leave our homes, we stand at the mercy of people and the elements. It is the more reason why personal hygiene is key. As it stands, after a 4th attempt to secure bail for his client on health grounds (repeated visits to the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital) lawyer Kwasi Boaitey managed to convince the Kumasi Circuit court to grant his client bail from the Kumasi Central Prison on Tuesday 30th December 2014 although he was scheduled to appear in court on January 5, 2014.

The battle is not over; securing bail only means that although Kwaw is not in the custody of the police, he pledges to make himself available upon the request of the court till a final ruling is made.

2014 has been a bad year for the Abodam man, aside losing his manager and friend as well as getting separated from wife, his incarceration has cost him money for he was billed to perform at events such as Saminifest 2014, MTN Carols night, Citi FM’s Decemba2Remember, Ghana Rocks and Y-FM’s Loud in GH.

Kwaw Kese was also set to launch new album “Forever” on Christmas Eve as well as party with folks at the Pantang Mental Hospital in his annual Mad Feast, where he also donates items and cash but that was not to be.

The million dollar question is should a spliff cause a man so much trouble?

When marijuana is mentioned, Jamaica comes to mind but history informs us that Ghana and Jamaica have a lot in common. History holds that a good number of slaves taken from Ghana were sent to the island. Meals, names and customs bear similarities but another thing that binds the two countries is the high grade (apologies to Samini) marijuana grown in the two countries thanks to the hot climate and fertile soil which favour the plant.

In Jamaica, a third of the citizens have used marijuana despite it being illegal to possess/use ganja since 1913. Greats such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Culture have labeled the law as absurd, they have called for repeal but till date it remains illegal to use marijuana on the island. Similarly the law in Ghana frowns on the use of the herb.

But why does an increasing number of global citizens use the herb/cannabis/marijuana/ganja/wee/weed:

“It’s a good vacation piece”- shaggy

“It’s for meditation” -busy signal

“It’s a natural herb, it’s a natural plant that grows within creation, how harmful could it be” -Morgan Heritage.

“It helps people with ADD to concentrate, it helps brain cancer patients, cigarettes have done a lot more harm. It’s been demonized but it shouldn’t be” -Sean Paul

“Wee makes you creative, eat, sleep, laugh and gives good vibes”- Mighty Crown

29,000 people who follow the Rastafarian religion in Jamaica see marijuana as herb and not drug so does the millions who follow the faith globally.

The types of marijuana aka (the staff of life) include:

White Ice (high grade) is a hybrid of 35 strains of marijuana. Users say it gives a body high, a relaxing buzz and feelings of euphoria.

Some add raw tobacco to marijuana to season or spice it up.

Indica Skunk: known for its robustness, it grows faster than other strain of marijuana.

Purple Skunk: known for its uplifting and sometimes psychedelic high.

Marijuana also known as the wonder plant is said to be in existence for over 10,000 years and hailed for its medicinal and recreational properties.

In Northern China, the herb was used for religious and healing purposes before gaining entry in India where British nationals took it to England and then America.

In England it immediately became Queen Victoria’s treatment for her menstrual cramps.

Upon entry in the US, it was available in chopped, powder and whole form. It was easily available and used till Congress enacted the Marijuana Tax Act which sought to reduce usage.

The misconception that use of marijuana led to debauchery and violence led to marijuana’s medicinal and recreational values to be downplayed.

Despite the government’s war on marijuana usage, in 1988 the chief administrative law judge of the Food and Drugs Administration issued a ruling recommending that marijuana was one of the safest therapeutic agents known to man. He added marijuana was safer than eating 10 potatoes.

“As a cancer doctor, on a daily basis I see patients with cancer who have nausea, loss of appetite, pain, depression and insomnia. In my over 30 years’ experience one medicine provides relief instead of writing 5 different prescriptions which come with side effects and addictive properties. I simply urge patients to try marijuana to take care of their symptoms” Donald Abrams MD.

The pioneering work by Tod H. Mikuriya, MD states that conditions treated with cannabis include hepatitis C, diabetes, hypertension, asthma, epilepsy, migraine, appetite loss, diarrhea, Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis in addition to having anti-tumor effect on lung, breast, typhoid, brain and prostate cancer.

According to Dr. Donald Tashkin MD, tobacco smokers have a marked increase risk compared to those who smoked only marijuana. He said tobacco smokers who smoked 2 packs a day had a 20 fold (2000%) increased risk whiles those who smoke 1 to 2 packs a day had an 8 fold (800%) risk of getting lung cancer.

Whiles tobacco contains nicotine which makes smokers dependent; marijuana on the other hand contains delta-9-tetrahydro cannabinol (THC) and 60 other THC substances called cannabinoids which help fight cancerous and diseased cells.

Already the Israeli and Croatian governments offer cannabis to troops for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Why then do certain governments including the Ghanaian and Jamaican ones throw people in jail for marijuana use?

The popular claim is that weed is the currency criminals use to buy and arms and ammunition for violent attacks. The police have thus adopted a zero tolerance response to ganja and the gangs leading the destruction of wee farms operated by poor farmers who sell to the wee traders.

Another claim is that wee is a gateway drug for stronger drugs like cocaine, heroin and ecstasy. Dr. Donald Tashkin MD of the US however maintains the adverse effects/addictive potential and gateway drugness of marijuana are overstated.

The words of Orville, a herb smoker are incisive: “if you steal to get the money to smoke, you going feel the police is after you. If you work for the money, you enjoy your light”, perhaps this explains why people keep watching out coupled with the fact that the police will indeed come after you when caught smoking.

So despite the many benefits are there side effects associated with use of marijuana?

Yes there are and they include coughs often associated with those who smoke rather than eat, drink or vaporize it.

Panic reaction occurs in people who are novice users especially those exposed to a plant very high in THC.

Paranoid thinking: That police are after them. Since marijuana use is illegal in most states, this often is an exaggerated reality.

After years of side stepping and backsliding the US government has given a pass for the sale of marijuana for medicinal and recreational use in certain states.

The Italian government has employed the services of its soldiers to grow more cannabis to meet demand whiles the Netherlands continue to attract tourists who visit its weed pubs to partake of the herb.

Kwaw Kese’s arrest and the attention it has attracted ought to be the defining moment to revisit the law to ascertain if indeed it is serving the interest of citizens but as with many things Ghanaian, the talk will die down and nothing will change.

Now is the time for Parliament to debate the marijuana law, reach a consensus and enact a law informing citizens to know if they can secure the herb for medicinal/ recreational and/or religious purposes. Laws passed by colonial oppressors ought not dictate the lives of today’s citizens especially when they prove inimical.

Those who label marijuana negatively do so because of stories they’ve been fed but even though I have never tasted marijuana, per my residence I have seen all sorts of people who use marijuana yet exhibit different traits because people have varied compositions (introvert/extrovert).

This quote by American President George Washington is telling: “Make the most you can of the Indian Hemp seed and sow it everywhere”.

As with anything else there are good quality wee and poor ones, be mindful of what you put in your body.

Kwaw, your arrest is already a test case, may the new year prove kind to you. May you gain good health, strength and wealth and may the powers that be ultimately decide to leave you to continue with your work and not cause a talent such as yours to rot in a prison.

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