Narcotics control in Ghana


Administrative arrangements


Author: T. E. C. SAGOE,
Pages: 5 to 13
Creation Date: 1966/01/01

Narcotics control in Ghana

A case study by

Ph.C. M.P.S. (Eng) M.I.Pharm.M. T. E. C. SAGOE, Principal Pharmacist, Ministry of Health, Ghana

Ghana is party to the Single Convention of 1961, and had also declared itself bound by the 1948 Protocol, the 1931 and 1925 Conventions as amended, and the 1912 Convention.

The administration of control over narcotic drugs, from the top to the working level, seeks to reflect the treaty obligations of the country.

The population of Ghana is 7,841,000, an increase of one million over the 1960 population census. The most striking feature has been the remarkable growth of some of the cities and principal towns especially Accra (the capital), Sekondi/Takoradi, Kumasi and Tamale.

Developments in the health services:

The expansion in health services has taken the form of construction of more hospital facilities with the aim of raising the number of hospital beds in the country. The present number of hospital beds is about 4,000 and it is envisaged that this will be raised in the very near future. Four hospital units which were built at Korle Bu Hospital at Accra which will be the teaching hospital for the training of medical students, have been put into operation. Extensions to the existing district hospitals have been made and modern equipment installed.

A modern mental hospital with about 220 beds at Ankaful, a village about 45 miles east of Takoradi is in operation. Facilities at this hospital are to be expanded very soon in order to increase the bed capacity in that hospital. With the opening of this hospital, Ghana now has two well equipped and manned psychiatric hospitals. The other one is at Accra, the capital of the country.

A medical school has been established in the country and permanent construction development is well in hand.

Health centres have been opened in the rural areas thus bringing medical facilities to the people in these areas. More of these health centres will be opened in the near future. There are about 50 health centres in the country with medical officers attached to them.

Administrative arrangements

Control of licit use of narcotics

The control of narcotics in Ghana, as well as drugs generally is the responsibility of the Minister of Health. This control is exercised through the Pharmacy and Drugs Act, 1961.

Ghana does not manufacture drugs. The State Pharmaceutical Corporation which may go into production in 1966, has not yet announced its programme. Therefore all narcotic drugs are imported and will be imported in the near future.

Importation of narcotics

The importation of narcotic drugs is limited to medical practitioners, dentists, veterinary surgeons, pharmacists or licensed companies. There are 36 dentists, 656 doctors, 15 veterinary surgeons and 332 pharmacists in Ghana.

If any such authorized persons wish to import narcotics they must complete an application form for a licence to import dangerous drugs, and submit it to the Chief Pharmacist of the Ministry of Health. The application is examined in the light of the annual estimates of narcotic drugs submitted by Ghana to the Central Permanent Narcotics Board, Geneva, and the qualifications of the applicant.

On approval of the application, an Import Licence for Dangerous Drugs and a Certificate of Official Approval of Import are issued to the applicant. On both of these documents the following information is stated:

  1. Name and full postal address of the importer

  2. Name and full postal address of exporter

  3. Exact description and amount of drugs to be imported

  4. Customs office through which the drugs will be imported

Both the Licence and Certificate are valid only for a period of nine months after the date of issue. On the certificate, the mode by which the consignment will be imported (i.e. sea freight, air freigth or parcel post) is also stipulated. The customs offices through which narcotics can be imported are limited.

A copy of the Import Licence for dangerous drugs is sent to the Controller of Customs and another sent to the importer. On arrival of the consignment the importer will present his copy to Customs for comparison with their duplicate copy; when the customs authorities are satisfied that the drugs as well as the quantities imported agree with the licence, the parcel is released. This is the national control.

The original copy of the certificate of Official Approval of Import is always posted under registered cover to the importer who will in turn post this to the supplier in the exporting country. A carbon copy of this certificate is sent in advance to the competent authorities in the country from where the drug will be supplied to enable them to issue an export authorization to cover the consignment.

Both the Import Licence for Dangerous Drugs and Certificate of Official Approval of Import bear the same number and date. Such other particulars as description of drugs and amounts to be imported are recorded in a narcotics register.

On receipt of the drugs, the importer informs the Chief Pharmacist on a form known as "Advice of Receipt of Import Narcotic Drugs ". This form has the following headings:

  1. Reference number of Import Licence and date of issue

  2. Name and address of Importing Firm in Ghana

  3. Name and address of Exporting Firm Abroad

  4. Route of Import

  5. Quantity and description of Drug

  6. Total drug content

  7. Date of arrival of consignment in Ghana

  8. Date of receipt of consignment by Importer

This form is always signed by the Pharmacist in charge of the establishment with his rank and dated.

On receipt of this advice, the Chief Pharmacist orders that the date of importation of drug, total drug content and mode by which the consignment was imported be recorded in the Narcotics Register.

Export authorizations issued by exporting countries and sent to Ghana covering a consignment of narcotics received in Ghana, are endorsed accordingly and returned under registered cover to the competent authorities in the exporting countries.

The exact drug content of the consignment is also reported to the Permanent Central Narcotics Board, Geneva, on the approved United Nations form A1. quarterly.

Information concerning imported narcotics is then passed onto the Principal Pharmacists in the regions, who have Inspecting Pharmacists working under them. The latter cross-check the importing firms, to see that the drugs are not diverted to illicit channels but used for medical or scientific purposes.

Supply of narcotics to hospitals

There are 39 government hospitals and 46 health centres also controlled by the government. There are also 62 private hospitals, 11 mines hospitals and 25 mission hospitals.

The government hospitals receive their supply of narcotics from the Central Medical Stores. The mission hospitals as well as private medical practitioners buy their narcotic drugs from local importing firms. About four local firms regularly import narcotics. These are well known and well organized pharmaceutical establishments with qualified personnel and adequate means for the storage, distribution and statutory accounting of narcotics.

Apart from these there are 82 retail chemists shops from which narcotics may be supplied. These also obtain their supplies from the main wholesale importers.

Classification of drugs

Drugs generally are classified into four major groups in Ghana: Class A, B, C and exempted drugs. Class A is further divided into Part I and Part II. Part I drugs are such drugs as barbiturates, amphetamines, sulphonamides, antibiotics, etc. which should be supplied only on medical practitioners' prescription; Part II are the narcotic drugs. All Class A drugs are, therefore, supplied only on prescription. Class B drugs are those drugs which are supplied by Registered Pharmacists only to "responsible persons ", but not on prescription. These are drugs such as tablets ephedrine, stovarsol, etc. Class C drugs are proprietary drugs which are to be supplied by both chemical sellers and registered pharmacists. These drugs are not sold on prescription.

Exempted drugs (i.e. those not in classes A, B and C) are such drugs as aspirin and sodium bicarbonate which can be sold by anyone and at any place.

Where drugs are to be sold

Class A, B and C drugs are to be sold on registered premises and by registered people, i.e. registered pharmacists or licensed chemical sellers. Licensed chemical sellers are authorized persons who are not necessarily trained and qualified persons but are permitted to sell the ordinary household remedies such as A.P.C. tablets, simple antiseptics and simple medicines for common ailments. The chemical sellers should however be literate and should be citizens of good behaviour and have clean criminal record.

Routine in government hospitals

The greatest consumers of narcotics are the government hospitals. In every government hospital, there is a medical store and a pharmacist always in charge, who is also responsible for the hospital pharmacy. The pharmacist makes requisitions for all drugs including narcotics to regional medical stores. The regional medical stores supply the drugs on an issue voucher. The person in charge of the drugs in the regional medical store is always a pharmacist. On receipt of the drugs at the hospital, the pharmacist checks the drugs and enters the quantities in a store ledger. The narcotics are then stored in a special cupboard, reserved for narcotics, which is always locked and the key of which is kept by the pharmacist in charge.

Before drugs are issued to a government hospital pharmacy the quantities and the description of the drugs are stated in a Daily Issue Book and the necessary records are also made in the ledger. The Daily Issue Book is initialled by the medical officer in charge of the hospital. In the case of narcotics, when the drugs are removed from the stores to the dispensary they are then entered in a narcotics register and the drugs kept in a cupboard under lock and key. When the drugs are needed for use in the wards or theatre, the sister-in-charge of the department writes out a requisition in a special requisition book for narcotics. In this book, she states the date, the description of the drug and quantity required. The requisition is signed by the sister and the medical officer in charge of the department. The requisition is presented to the pharmacist who supplies the quantity asked for taking into consideration the consumption rate of the ward concerned. At this stage, the pharmacist has a number of entries to make in the following books;-(1) The New Ward Register for Narcotics; (2) The Narcotics Register of the Pharmacy;(3) lie Narcotics Requisition Book.

Both the pharmacist and the staff nurse collecting the drugs will have to append their signatures to the various entries in the three record books named above. In all the other hospitals the same procedure is followed.

Inspection of premises where narcotics are used

Under the Pharmacy and Drugs Act 1961, experienced pharmacists are appointed as inspectors to see to the implementation of the provisions of the Act. Inspecting pharmacists are empowered by law to enter any premises where they have reasonable cause to believe that offences in relation with the Pharmacy and Drugs Act are being committed.

They pay frequent visits to wholesalers of narcotics to collect data, and then check on the consumption of the drug in either a hospital or a retail chemist's shop.

In addition to the inspecting pharmacists, police officers not below the rank ofAssistant Superintendent are also empowered to enter any premises on suspicion of drug offences.

There is also an administrative provision by which private, mining end mission hospitals and wholesalers of narcotics have to submit quarterly returns to the Pharmacy Division of the Ministry of Health on receipts and consumption of narcotics in their institutions.

Control of domestic trade

Classes of importers granted import licences for narcotic drugs

1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964
Commercial Wholesalers
4 3 4 4 4  
Govt. Institutions
1 1 1 1 1 1
Med. Practioners
Military Hospitals
1 1 1 1 1 1
Mission Hospita l
1 1 1 1

So far, the methods used in controlling the licit trade in narcotics have proved satisfactory. There has not been any case of abuse.

Cannabis in Ghana

Cannabis sativa is not indigenous to Ghana and evidence indicates that it was introduced into the country. This is confirmed by Irvin in Flora of West Tropical Africa, (1958). Asuni in Bulletin on Narcotics, Vol. XVI, No. 2 (1964) stated that it was most likely that the plant was introduced to other parts of West Africa.

The local name for cannabis is "Wee ", which is supposed to be a corrupted pronunciation of "weed" by seamen. This is an indication that the plant was brought into the country by merchant seamen. The abuse of cannabis in Ghana is a recent occurrence. It was heard of soon after the Second World War (1945), the plant being introduced by Ghanaian soldiers who had been to the Far East and East Africa. Most of these soldiers on their return home told stories about the euphoric effect of a plant when smoked and it is probable that some had smoked cannabis while they were on active service abroad.

No doubt the seeds of cannabis were also smuggled into Ghana by both sailors and ex-service men, and passed on to people who later cultivated the plant clandestinely.·

Cannabis is prohibited in Ghana, and its cultivation is illegal. There is no production for licit purposes: the only purpose for which cannabis is grown is for smoking, and it is not used for fibre.

Offences in connexion with cannabis

1959 87 8 6
11 112 95
1960 93 16 3 4 3 119 118
1961 86 12 4 4 1 107 102
1962 85 10 5 3 3 106 99
1963 44 5 6
55 49
1964 73 18 6 2
99 80

Cannabis being a native plant of Asia (Irvin 1958), grows profusely in this tropical climate with little or no care. There is no evidence that the plant grows wild in Ghana.

In all detected cases of illegal cultivation, cannabis is always grown amongst crops such as cassava, corn, and sugar cane; these crops grow to a considerable height (4 to 6 feet) and the cannabis is hidden amonst them. In cases where cannabis is cultivated on its own, it is planted amongst common weeds in the forest areas so that the cannabis plant itself may be mistaken as a weed.

Seedlings of cannabis being nursed before transplantation.

Full size image: 78 kB, Seedlings of cannabis being nursed before transplantation.

Areas where the plant is cultivated

The first illicit cultivation reported by police was in 1960 and the seizure of cannabis in that year was about 93 kilograms.

The areas from where cannabis cultivation has mostly been reported are the Western, Eastern, Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions of the country. It appears that police vigilance is very great in the cities and big towns, and therefore cultivation is carried on in the villages or small towns very near to the big towns mostly where the plant is consumed.

There had been cases of illegal cultivation (1960 and 1961) at Agona Junction which is the main junction on the trunk road to Tarkwa, a mining town with a large population of labourers and Takoradi which is one of harbour towns in the country. Illegal cultivation was discovered in Busua 1961 (Western Region), a coastal town with very little activity except for a recently built motel which has turned the town into a holiday resort. This town again is about 15 miles to the west of Takoradi.

Again several cases of cultivation have been reported from the Nsawam area (Eastern Region). Nsawam is a town 21 miles by road and rail to the north of Accra, the capital of Ghana.

In Ashanti region, the forest area of the country, there had been illegal cultivations; plots were discovered in Kumasi which is the capital of the region, at Effiduase and Edubiasi, towns which are about 25 miles respectively from Kumasi.

Cultivation cases are very rare in the Northern and Upper regions of the country. The natural vegetation of these areas is savanna, rainfall is very scanty and the areas are sparsely populated with large patches which are uninhabited.

How cannabis is harvested

The harvesting of cannabis usually takes place during the dry season. The plants are cut with cutlasses in the usual way of clearing weeds. These are not collected immediately but are allowed to dry on the farm. When they are sufficiently dried, the dried herbs are collected and packed into cocoa sacks, empty cartons and conveyed in the night or early hours of the morning as head loads, or in the boots of taxis or under passenger seats on "mame" trucks.

Indian hemp harvested from a farm 270 sq. yds. in the Brong Ahafo area.

Full size image: 188 kB, Indian hemp harvested from a farm 270 sq. yds. in the Brong Ahafo area.

How consumed

The only way by which cannabis is consumed is smoking. It is never chewed nor brewed. The dried parts of the plant are usually wrapped in paper. These wraps are not in the form of cigarettes. Anyone who wishes to smoke it will buy a wrap and then roll it in any kind of paper in the form of a cigarette and smoke it. To avoid detection, the stuff is packed into a normal cigarette which has had some of its genuine tobacco removed.

The price per wrap is now 12 pesewas - one shilling. (The average wage of a labourer in the cities or big towns is 78 pesewas (6/6d) per day).

Drug addiction

There is no evidence of drug addiction in Ghana. Misuse of cannabis is the only problem; opium and the "white drugs" are not abused. The narcotic drugs usually imported into Ghana are the following: pethidine (ampoules and tablets); morphine injections; normethadone in the form of drops; methadone in the form of elixir. All these narcotic drugs are usually obtainable from hospitals or retail pharmacies on doctors' prescription. In government hospitals where there is usually large out-patient attendance, patients are not allowed to take away injectable drugs. Out-patients in need of injections are either admitted into the hospital or have to attend the hospital daily for injections prescribed for them. Narcotics are never prescribed for out-patients and therefore, there is no possibility of left over narcotic drugs being passed on from patients to friends or relatives.

Midwives running maternity homes are not permitted to give narcotics to their patients.

Number of persons admitted in Psychiatric Hospital for treatment involving hemp smoking

The reports available from police and psychiatrists in connection with abuse of drugs are only associated with illicit consumption of cannabis. In the year 1964, 16 patients between the ages of 18 and 31 were admitted into the Mental Hospital at Accra for treatment. All the patients were males and were all of the semi-skilled or labourer group. These 16 patients cannot be described as chronic users of cannabis. Normally they would not have been admitted into the hospital if they had not shown symptoms of psychiatric disorder. It is not the practice to give psychiatric treatment to cannabis smokers, who are considered criminals.

Four of these patients went to see a medical officer on their own and on being examined, the medical officers referred them to psychiatrists. Ten of them were also admitted into the Mental Hospital on doctor's orders but they did not give themselves up voluntarily. Two were sent to the hospital on court orders.

Use of cannabis in native system of treatment

There is no original local name for cannabis in Ghana. This indicates that the drug was not known of until it was introduced in recent years. Native doctors do not know of the herb. Enquiries amongst herbalists have confirmed that the plant has never been used in native system of therapeutics.

Consumption for religious purposes

In like manner there is no evidence to prove that cannabis is consumed by religious sects to give them that "feeling which makes them see visions ". However, police have arrested, prosecuted and convicted so-called gospel preachers of the newly founded "spiritual" churches in connection with illegal consumption of cannabis. There was no evidence that the followers of these preachers also consumed cannabis, neither was there any proof that the illegal consumption was for religious purposes.

The preachers themselves might have resorted to smoking "wee" as this no doubt gave them the extra "energy" which they require for the continuous clapping of hands, loud singing and the condition in which they are supposed to hear and speak ancient languages. These spiritual churches hold services at night (about 8 o'clock) and continue till the small hours of the morning.

Main classes of consumers

With the illicit consumption of cannabis it could be said that the habit is found among persons of the lower classes. The habit is also found among people who live in the towns, especially those who have moved from their home towns or villages to seek jobs in the big towns and cities.

In cases reported by police, the men culprits always outnumber the women and also the boys outnumber the girls. Of the sixteen patients admitted in the Mental Hospital at Accra (1964) for treatment, there was not a single female.

The women offenders are always prosecuted for possessing the herb. This may indicate that the women themselves only keep and supply the drug when required. They are, therefore, traffickers and not actual consumers. There has not been any case in which a prostitute as such has been arrested. All women prosecuted are illiterates and have claimed to be either seamstresses or petty traders.

Middle School boys between the ages of 12 and 16 years have been known to smoke "wee". There is no evidence to prove that Secondary School and University students indulge in the habit of smoking cannabis.

There was a case in 1964 in which a washerman in one of the secondary schools was found in possession of Indian hemp. There was no evidence to prove that the washerman had been selling the herb to the students.

Very few girls between the ages of 16 and 20 years have been arrested, prosecuted and convicted in connection with cannabis offences. All such girls were illiterates or semi-illiterates and are the type who usually visit shady drinking pubs.

Lorry and taxi drivers and their mates have also been known to be either in possession of herb or smoking it. But there has not been any study or investigation to determine whether accidents happen as a result of a driver being under the influence of cannabis.

There is also no evidence to prove that crimes are committed under the influence of "wee ". Indian hemp is usually found on a criminal who is being searched in connection with other offences. There is no evidence to indicate that professionals and people of educated classes consume cannabis.

Places of smoking

There are no organised places for smoking Indian hemp in Ghana. Police reports indicate that smoking of Indian hemp usually takes place in isolated place and near lorry parks. Again, youth who loiter in fron of cinema houses have been known to be in possession of "wee" and smoked it.

Shady drinking pubs where there is usually radiogram music are visited by Indian hemp offenders. It is said that hemp is not smoked in the open bar. But a smoker usually goes to the toilet attached to the bar, takes puffs and comes back to continue drinking or dancing.

Social problem

The problem of Indian hemp cultivation and smoking no doubt exists in Ghana. Hardly a week passes without a report in the local newspapers concerning arrests, prosecution or conviction of offenders who indulge in Indian hemp trafficking or smoking. These frequent reports may indicate increasing vigilance of the police but it is also an indication of the extent to which the problem is growing.

The majority of the community do not know about the herb and cannot recognize it. It cannot be said that at present the problem is of such magnitude that it can be considered as a social problem in the country.

Persons involved in offence relating to Indian hemp

Total Convictions
Total Prosecutions
1959 22
99 95 112
1960 10
5 104 118 119
1961 16
11 80 102 107
1962 26 2 7 71 99 106
1963 13
4 38 49 55
1964 16 1 12 70 80 99

Illicit traffic

With the illicit cultivation of cannabis in Ghana it is evident that the illicit traffic is supported by illicit production of the herb. Large plantations of cannabis have been discovered by police since 1959. No doubt there are other plantations which have not been discovered. There is also the fact that there has been smuggling into the country by merchant seamen and itinerant traders from neighbouring countries.

Within the country the herb is transported in boots of taxis or packed in sacks under seats in "mame" trucks. The detection of these offences usually depends upon information as very few people know of the herb, and they cannot recognise it.

Detection, occasionally, follows searches of people in police custody, and of houses and vehicles which have come to police notice in connection with other offences.

Those who know about cannabis, either as traffickers or users, are also aware that it is a prohibited substance so they make every effort to conceal the herb from the police. They even try to conceal the stuff from anyone who is in authority; youth hide it from adults who may be their guardians or parents. On account of this detection is extremely difficult, and is usually dependent on information.

Police activities

The Criminal Investigation Department of the Ghana Police Services are vigilant and aware of the problem, and are employing all methods in detecting cannabis offences. Most of their detection has been done on information received.

The police organise road blocks on the roads leading to and from the big towns and cities, and conduct searches of vehicles and of suspected passengers. This has been one of the most successful methods of detecting cannabis.

Seizures of cannabis in Ghana

1959 38 kilos
1960 93 kilos
1961 11 kilos
1962 3 kilos
1963 20 kilos
1964 19 kilos

Night patrols with police jeeps on the outskirts of the cities and big towns where cannabis is mostly consumed have also led to detection and arrests. The harvested cannabis is usually carried from farms in cocoa bags and empty cartons and concealed in bushes along the main roads The transportation to the towns is done at night A typical example of the means of conveying cannabis is in cartons of soap and soft drink concentrate tied togetherwith a string. According to a report from the Criminal Investigation Department a man was seen carrying these cartons on his head at about three o'clock in the early morning walking towards Accra from a point about 10 miles away. The culprit on seeing the patrol jeep threw the cartons down and took to his heels into the bush. The cartons were found to contain cannabis, but the offender eluded arrest.

Cannabis packed in a sack. The parcel on top of the sack is also cannabis wrapped in brown paper.

Full size image: 55 kB, Cannabis packed in a sack. The parcel on top of the sack is also cannabis wrapped in brown paper.

Forensic laboratory

The (Criminal Investigation Department has its own laboratory for investigation and detection of various crimes including the identification of cannabis. The laboratory is manned by a scientific staff and adequately equipped.

The police drafted to the Investigation Department are given sound training in recognising cannabis by sight and smell. There is also a Government analytical laboratory, which undertakes analysis for both the police and customs.

Illicit international traffic

There are no organised gangs engaged in trafficking in cannabis. The drug is usually wrapped in small quantities in paper, and carried on the person of pedlers.

Of late there have been reports from the United Kingdom concerning Ghanaians employed on aeroplanes or ships, being concerned in cannabis trafficking. Apart from these there have not been any other reports from any other countries involving Ghanaians in international traffic in cannabis. It is quite obvious that these seizures did not involve organised groups. They were small-scale and intended forpetty personal profit or consumption.

The air stewards involved in the trafficking were suspended from flying and the seamen were ordered not to be permitted to land in any country. The customs and police adopted strictermeasures by searching thoroughly the baggage and persons of employees of both airline and shipping company before embarking and on disembarkation. It has also been ruled that any such employee who became involved in such offences would be dismissed forthwith.

Offences involving cannabis

Sections 47 to 49 of the Pharmacy and Drugs Act 1961 and paragraphs (e) and (f) of the Pharmacy and Drugs Act (Amendment) Act 1963 clearly state the offences connected with cannabis. Section 47 (i) as amended states:

"(1) No person shall have in his possession without lawful excuse, proof of which shall be on him, any opium or Indian hemp of any species or description whatsoever or any residue from the smoking thereof.

"(2) The Minister may by legislative instrument make regulations applying the preceding subsection to such other narcotic drugs as are specified in the regulations."

Section 48 states that:

"No person shall:

  1. smoke opium or Indian hemp orfrequent any place used for the smoking thereof; or

  2. permit premises owned or occupied by him to be used by persons smoking opium or Indian hemp; or

  1. have in his possession pipes or other utensils for use in connection with the smoking of opium or Indian hemp."

In Section 49 it is stipulated:

" No person shall without the written consent of the Minister, proof of which shall be on him, cultivate any plant from which a narcotic drug can be extracted."


Long prison sentences and heavy fines are the penalties laid down in section 57 of the Pharmacy and Drugs Act 1961 and paragraph (i) and (j) of its amendment Act 1963 for offences in connection with narcotics, especially cannabis.

Section 57 as amended states that:

"(1) If a person acts in such a way as to contravene a requirement, condition or prohibition imposed by or under this Act he shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.

"(2) A person guilty of an offence under this Act:

(a) where the offence relates to a narcotic drug, shall be liable:

(i) on conviction or indictment, to a fine not exceeding one thousand pounds (1,000) or imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or both;

(ii) on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding two hundred and fifty pounds (250) or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or both.

(b) where the offence is that of supplying of opium or Indian hemp or of cultivating Indian hemp contrary to section 28 (2) or section 49 of this Act, as the case may be, and in each case the person has been convicted of that offence on two previous occasions, shall be liable to imprisonment for life;

(c) where the offence is that of smoking or of having in his possession any opium or Indian hemp contrary to section 48 (a) or to subsection (1) of section 47 of this Act as the case may be and the person has, in each case been convicted of that offence on two previous occasions, shall be liable to imprisonment not exceeding twenty years.

"(3) A person guilty of an offence under this Act relating to Indian hemp shall be sentenced to imprisonment for at least five years."

Since cannabis is not considered to be a drug of addiction it has been considered that abstinence from the drug will be the surest way of stopping a user of this narcotic from his bad habit. Hence long prison sentences are imposed on users of the drug and pedlars. To the second group these heavy penalties are considered to be an adequate deterrent.

Other aspects of the fight against illicit traffic

The department of Social Welfare has been organising meetings of parents' and teachers' associations at which problems of delinquency are discussed. The ill effects of smoking cannabis have on several occasions been the subject on which Inspecting Pharmacists have been lecturing to the Association. Photographs of the herb have been shown to both teachers and parents to enable them to recognise the herb when they came across it.

Films on narcotics lent by the Narcotics Division of the United Nations to the Ministry of Health were shown to various sections of the community not only in the cities but throughout the country.

Advantage has been taken of facilities provided under the United Nations Technical Assistance Scheme to train a pharmacist in the control of narcotics in 1961. In 1965 a Customs officer and a Police officer were trained abroad.

The problem of abuse of cannabis is thus being tackled from several angles. It is not yet, fortunately, a serious problem in the country, which is all the more reason that it should be nipped in the bud.


Irvin - Flora of tropical West Africa 1958.

Asuni, T. Socio-psychiatric problems of cannabis in Nigeria - Bulletin on Narcotics, Vol.XVI.No.2.

Pharmacy and Drugs Act 1961.

Pharmacy and Drugs (Amendment) Act 1963.


I have to express my sincere thanks to the Principal Secretary, Ministry of Health, for granting me permission to produce this article. Most of the information has been obtained from records in the Ministry of Health.

The Commissioner of Police, Criminal Investigation Department of the Ghana Police Services, also placed at my disposal statistical data on illicit traffic and seizures of cannabis. The photographs were also supplied by his department. I am grateful to him and his staff who were very co-operative and helpful.