By Gabin Iyoha

I had moved to my new resident at aluko Isaac Street, Lagos, Nigeria, and explored my area on a weekend. I was walking down my street when I noticed a young boy between 15-18 years of age at the junction selling an unknown item to people gathered around him. Most buyers left with a white paper, smiling and joking as they disperse in singles or groups. I later got to find out from a friend of mine that the junction is well known as a hot spot for the sales of various hard drugs/substance most especially the popular marijuana or “Igbo/weed” as it is in Nigeria.

Now if you have ever lived in any of Nigeria populous centres like Lagos, Ibadan, Enugu, Kano, but to name a few, chances are you will see young persons between the age of 12-29 years that you are familiar with making use of this hard drug. Such is the rise in usage among young people in this millennial.

A report came in 2011 from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime that rated Nigeria top of the chart in Africa for drug/substance. Till date, Nigeria remain perched on top, with almost every 3 in 5 Nigerian youth taking marijuana. The method of intake of marijuana range from smoking it wrapped in paper, boiling and drinking the water, to use it as an essential ingredient in cooking meals. For every corner, street, neighbourhood or town there are always people loitering around with small pouches filled with marijuana ready to sell, some even home deliveries.

There is a common trend in Nigeria that users of marijuana take part in criminal activities such as molestation/bullying, robberies and any nefarious act you can think. To an average Nigerian, any user of marijuana is a criminal, plain and simple. But what people fail to ask or understand is the reason behind the rising demand for marijuana among young people and the fact that not everyone who takes marijuana has a criminal tendency. Though we blame our failing institutions or bad children, the reasons are far simpler.

For some, it’s the thrill, the rush, while others seek to find inner peace or escape a deeper emotional pain by numbing themselves silly. Most young persons displeased with the state of affairs in these times, and where one cannot find a leave in the body, they search and find a leave in the mind.

Most celebrities are contributing to the rise in the use of marijuana among their young fan base. When you see musicians and influencers tying their brand identities to marijuana, then it becomes cool. There was a time when most music videos or lyrics were censored in Nigeria, as a method of keeping the young minds from illegal habits. But with the huge amount of money flowing around the entertainment industry, the authorities have been lax in their duties.

It is easy to blame young people who partake in use of marijuana and label them criminals and outcast of the society, yet in a growing culture. We are at a crossroad between choosing to join a trend and staying away from it.

Marijuana intake has become a norm in Nigeria, nothing shows that the rise will dwindle soon. So we should control our sense of smell and avert our gaze.

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