The Narcotics Control Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2023 has been forwarded by the Speaker of the House, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal, and Parliamentary Affairs.
On Thursday, July 6, 2023, the bill to change the law was read for the first time in the House and referred to the legal committee, which has one week to report back to the House.
The Speaker’s instruction comes in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling that the law allowing the Minister of the Interior to grant a licence to cultivate ‘wee’ was unconstitutional.
The Speaker, in referring the bill to the committee, said the House was not seeking to ”review” the decision of the apex court but to ”correct an error”.
He said: ”It is a matter that is dear to my heart personally, and I think the country is losing a lot as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision. We need to work expeditiously to rectify the wrong”.
He was optimistic that parliament, the judiciary, and the executive would work together in the country’s interest.
The bill was laid before the House by Ambrose Dery, the Interior Minister, who expressed his disagreement with the decision by the apex court.
He told the House that the amendment would introduce Section 43 precisely the way it was.
To him, the reason given by the court was in error.
Section 43 of Act 1019 allows the Minister of the Interior, upon the recommendation of the Narcotics Control Commission (NACOC), to grant an entity the licence to cultivate cannabis of not more than 0.3 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content for industrial and medicinal purposes.
The court held that the law was unconstitutional because there was no debate in Parliament before its passage into law, as stipulated by Article 106 (5) (6) of the 1992 Constitution.
The court also ruled that the explanatory memorandum attached to the bill placed before Parliament did not set out in detail the policy change, the defects in the existing law and the necessity to introduce a law to license the cultivation of cannabis.
Such an omission, it held, was a violation of Article 106 (2) of the 1992 Constitution.
But the Minister says the reason given by the court that the particular section was not debated by the House defeated the consensus building in the world of parliament.
He believes that once a matter is brought before the House, it is open to debate, during which not only opposing views are expressed.
He stated that even when there are no opposing views, the Speaker asks the question and a decision is made.
”So to, therefore, say that Section 43 was unconstitutional because there was no debate was, in my humble opinion, a grievous error, nut because we also consider this to be a public health issue and the benefits of medicinal and industrial, as well as economic value, this amendment is necessary to let us put back what has been in my view erroneously declared unconstitutional,” he added.
He went on to say that the bill does not seek to legalise recreational marijuana use, but rather to allow the minister to issue a special licence for cannabis grown to a specific specification.
He added that the bill, after amendment, will have a modern approach to the production of Cannabis for medicinal and industrial use.
He said that Countries like South Africa, Lesotho, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia have all legalised for economic growth.