Following the demised of dictatorship and the emergence of democracy and greater freedom more than two years ago in The Gambia, marijuana abuse by Gambian youth is believed to be on the rise in the country. This is visibly evident as youth are seen openly smoking marijuana on the streets of Serekunda and all other major cities in the Gambia.
This has prompted Gambians to raise questions on whether marijuana should be legalized or not in the country. However, according to Mamadou B. Barry, an Ex-National Intelligence Officer, legalizing marijuana would be the deadliest mistake that The Gambia will ever make saying Gambians abuse everything and lack that sense of civic awareness, unlike many other western nations. “Under no circumstances should we legalize marijuana in this country.” he asserts.
He says that the new democratic dispensation has encouraged more crimes and these crimes are mostly committed by drug addicts. The security agents are now powerless to curb the peddling, use, and abuse of drugs in the Gambia.” he argues.
The Police should be given the necessary powers to conduct arrests, investigations and prosecute drug abusers, and peddlers in our society in order to effectively curb the drug menace.” he explains.
Mr. Barry confirmed that some security personnel are sometimes involved in the trafficking of marijuana and making the fight against marijuana more difficult for other genuine security agents.” he says.
For Demba Touray, a van driver believes that poor civic education plays a vital role in the manner Gambian youth abuse marijuana in this country.
He says that the police should be given enough powers to control the peddling and use of marijuana in the Gambia.
“I have witnessed a case where a plain cloth officer wanted to arrest two people who were in possession of marijuana, they refused to arrest, scolded the officer and wanted to beat him up, it was us the civilians who helped the police officer to escape from them” he points out.
Drug peddlers and smokers caught should be jailed in order to curb the menace in society. They should be taken to Janjanbureh prison to be trained as agriculturists while serving their jail terms.” he opines.
Touray believes that greed and corruption are key factors that hamper the fight against marijuana in the Gambia.
“Marijuana users themselves do not want it to be legalized in the Gambia saying Gambians can easily abuse it to their detriment. We need laws that can control the use of marijuana where peddlers will be given a license so that they can pay tax to the economy and consumers must not carry more than 10 grams of it. An anonymous source says smoking marijuana makes him feel calm, he can enjoy the whole day without bad feelings towards others.”
“I enjoy driving my truck from the Gambia to Sierra Leone whenever I smoke marijuana says Bubacarr Baldeh, it does not cause any abnormalities in me.” Marijuana users argue that the relationship between them and the police is very hostile. Some of these marijuana users admit bribing police officers whenever they are caught with marijuana and before long they are released from police custody.
“Most of these drug abusers want authorities to come up with tangible drug control policies saying no one should be in possession of more 10 grams of marijuana, anything more than that the individual should be charged for peddling drugs in the Gambia. “I saw a drug officer and wife selling rose, some officers will confiscate drugs from us and give it to their wives or brothers to sell it again” one marijuana smoker explains.
According to the statistics from Gambia’s only mental health institution, Tanka Tanka, about 60% of their patients are suffering from drug-related problems, official say.
“In an interview with Kerr Fatou, the Director-General of the Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Alhaji Bakary Gassama, says his agency’s strives to ensure the drug-free Gambia is hindered by uncooperative attitudes of abusers who think that it is within their rights to abuse banned substances.”
“It was a problem for all my staff to embark on their normal routine assignments because they fear that they could come under threat due to the violent nature of some of the youths.” It is everyone’s responsibility to support this institution.” he explains.
By Yero S. Bah/The Gambia