Eight tonnes of cannabis resin were discovered on a boat off of Senegal’s coast on Sunday, 6 June 2021. The Senegalese navy escorted the boat to a naval base in Dakar where 8.37 tonnes of hashish were found. The hashish was split between 279 bags, according to authorities. The boat was also carrying plaster and flew a Togolese flag. It had seven crew members on board. The armed forces ministry did not offer a street value for the drugs. The drug trafficking incident comes after an earlier incident in Niger where authorities had found 17 tonnes of cannabis resin, according to Reuters. The two incidents both allude to the increased drug trafficking and usage on the African continent.
According to a statement from the United Nations Office on Drugs Center (UNODC) in 2018, the recent increase in drug use in Senegal may be a combination of a “socio-economic factor, youth disillusionment and lack of perspectives,” resulting in increased criminal activity and drug use. Although this admittance of a drug concern was from a few years earlier, the issue has not appeared to have been alleviated. According to Interpol, larger shipments of drugs are being sent due to travel restrictions and border closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes it more difficult to send many smaller shipments, so many sources are taking greater risk by increasing the amount of their shipments. With both the 8.37 tonnes of hashish found by the Senegalese authorities and the 17 tonnes of cannabis resin discovered by the Niger authorities just this year, it is clear that drugs such as cannabis and others are still prevalent.
The African Union (AU) addressed the challenge of drug trafficking and usage most recently in a plan of action for 2019 to 2023. Within documents, the AU asserted that Africa “has not only become a major transit route…but also a major consumer and source” of narcotics and other drugs. When considering the grave challenge of unemployment being one of the major factors cited by the African Union to lead to “a surge in the number of young people on the [African] continent who use drugs,” the detrimental effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is particularly concerning. According to a pre-COVID report from 2018, the “consumption and trafficking of controlled substances have escalated in all five of the AU regions.” With cocaine, tramadol, amphetamine type stimulants, new psychoactive stimulants and similar drugs on the rise, cannabis and marijuana are among the undesirable drugs. The 2019 to 2023 plan by the AU includes “measures to tackle drug demand reduction and health issues associated with drug use” with a concentration in prevention. It also includes measures to “address drug supply reduction” by countering “enablers” of drug trafficking such as firearms, corruption and money laundering.
The abuse of drugs is undoubtedly a crisis that must be swiftly addressed. However, it is particularly important to note the African Union’s plan includes making “availability and access to controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes” easier while still preventing the dangerous dispersion of drugs. This is an incredibly important clause. The medical benefits of marjiuana have been increasingly explored in recent years. While an overuse of cannabis is undoubtedly problematic, the harsh enforcement of outdated laws regarding cannabis may be more detrimental than helpful. Especially considering the taxation purposes, cannabis could in fact be a very important part of a nation’s economy. Furthermore, by continuing to update a nation’s plan to address a particular issue, such as the African Union’s four-year plans regarding drug networking and domestic usage, the more adaptable and well-suited government plans may be.
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