I have been extremely fascinated by developments over the past week in Ghana with regard to illicit drugs and Politicians.
On the one hand, in the red corner, we have heard the indefatigable and formidable lawyer and politician, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo stating categorically that he has never done drugs and in the blue corner, Hon. Ama Benyiwa Doe MP, Minster for Central Region stating that all NPP members are drug peddlers. What is the perception of Ghanaians abroad?
Our community based radio stations in London, in particular Focus Radio were jammed with callers asking Nana to provide a medical report to silence his critics such as the controversial maverick politician/comic Kofi Wayo called for proof of Nana's assertion by way of blood test and current medical report. Medical reports are confidential in the UK.
I am not sure whether Nana Addo would be willing to provide a medical report. Is it necessary? Our Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Dave Cameron MP stated that he had dabbled in illicit drugs when he was younger. He continued to say that since he became an MP and since he entered the Palace of Westminster, he has not taken illicit drugs. On 11 February 2007, 3 years before the general elections in the UK, it was reported in the Independent newspaper as follows:
“David Cameron, the Conservative leader, has admitted taking drugs when he was a 15-year-old schoolboy at Eton, The Independent on Sunday can reveal today.
The disclosures that Mr Cameron has smoked cannabis came in a new biography serialised in today's paper. It is expected to mark a watershed in the debate about drugs in Britain, making him the first party leader and prospective British prime minister to confess to breaking the law over its use. The disclosure - in a biography written by Independent on Sunday journalists Francis Elliott and James Hanning - is conclusive evidence of Mr.Cameron's drugs past.” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/yes-i-took-drugs-says-cameron-435954.html
In my humble opinion, the Cameron confessions cleared the air and paved the way for some members of the voting public to 'forgive' him and vote for him. They saw him as an honest leader and probably attributed the taking of illicit drugs to youthful exuberance. Some members of the black community even perceived him as a “brother”. The most powerful man in the world, Barack Obama also made similar confessions regarding using drugs when he was younger in one of his book “Dreams from my father”.
My personal view is not the drug taking as what it does to the individual that dabbles in them. It can affect their behaviour and cognitive thinking ability. It can also lead to death. According to the Guardian newspaper, in the U.K, three drugs that produce so-called "legal highs" were banned at the end of last year (2009) after at least two deaths were linked to their use. Ghanaians need to learn more about the effects of drugs on our bodies and our minds.
Alan Johnson, the then UK Home Secretary, followed advice from government group 'the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs', to outlaw GBL, a legal alternative to the class C drug GHB, the cannabis substitute Spice and the amphetamine alternative BZP.
Hester Stewart, a 21-year-old medical student, died after taking GBL, which can kill when combined with alcohol, in April 2009. In 2008, Daniel Backhouse, a 22-year-old mortgage broker, suffered heart failure after mixing BZP with powdered ecstasy.
The Home Office launched a campaign last year to inform people about the risks associated with the drugs, including serious heart problems, vomiting, anxiety attacks, mood swings and seizures. "There is a perception that many of the so called 'legal highs' are harmless," the former home secretary said. However, in some cases people can be ingesting dangerous industrial fluids or smoking chemicals that can be even more harmful than cannabis."
Spice will be classified as a class B drug, which means users, could face up to five years in prison as well as a fine in the UK. Those dealing the drug could get up to 14 years in prison and a fine. Both GBL and BZP will be classified as class C drugs, which means users could face a two-year jail term and dealers could get up to 14 years.
But Stewart's mother, Maryon Stewart, said the drug should be made class A – the same category as heroin and ecstasy. "I think GBL is every bit as dangerous as heroin and ecstasy, if not more so," she added. "Because it's lethal when combined with alcohol, it should be a class A drug." She also criticized delays in introducing the ban, warning that waiting until MPs returned from their summer holidays on 12 October 2009 could mean more deaths.
An inquest into Stewart's death was told that although the level of GBL she had consumed was low and would not have stopped a full recovery in some people, its combination with alcohol had proved fatal. Drugs charities gave a mixed reception to the decision.
Steve Rolles, the head of research at Transform, warned that users might return to the banned drugs the 'legal highs' had been intended to replace. "Instead of using Spice, they will go back to cannabis," he said. "Instead of using BZP, they will go back to amphetamines, and instead of GBL, they will go back to GHB."
But Martin Barnes, the chief executive of the drug information charity DrugScope, said he supported the ban. He reported a rise in the number of people experiencing problems with GBL, saying: "The drug is unpredictable ... it is linked to fatalities and there is evidence of people becoming dependent on it after prolonged use."
The government in the UK will also ban several anabolic steroids, which are used by bodybuilders and have been linked to extreme anger known as "rhoid rage", fertility problems and stunted growth. Need I say more?
Georgette Djaba is a solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales with specific expertise in Immigration and Nationality, Family Law and the Law relating to children.
29 November 2010
Georgette Dede Djaba, LLM Solicitor, London
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