The Speaker of Parliament, Alban S. K. Bagbin, has said that there was the need for the three arms of government to work together and respect each other’s decisions on national issues.
“In cases of doubt, it is important to consult before giving finality to whatever decision the other arm wants to take.
“And I do not think that it is proper for the Judiciary to, without knowing how we conduct our business here, go into how we conduct business and make such an important decision,” he added.
The Speaker further described the conduct of the Judiciary as “improper and I have made this known to them and I want it to be known publicly for the benefit of the country. We need to work expeditiously to rectify the wrong”.
Mr Bagbin was speaking after presentation and the first reading of the Narcotics Regulation Commission Amendment Bill, 2023, by the Minister of Interior, Ambrose Dery, on the floor of Parliament on Thursday (July 6, 2023).
The new bill will amend the Narcotics Commission Act, 2020 (Act 1019) by substituting section 43 to empower the Interior Minister to grant licence for the cultivation of cannabis which has not more than 0.3 per cent Tetrahydrocannabinol content on a dry weight basis for industrial purposes such as obtaining fibre or seed or for medicinal purposes.
Supreme Court decision
On July 28, 2022, the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional a section of the Narcotic Control Commission Act, 2020 (Act 1019) which allows licence to be granted to an entity to cultivate a small quantity of cannabis, locally referred to as “wee” for industrial and medicinal purposes.
In a 4-3 majority decision, a seven-member panel of the Supreme Court held that Section 43 of Act 1019 violated Article 106 of the 1992 Constitution, which details the processes a bill must go through before it was passed into law by Parliament, and was, therefore, declared null and void.
However, after the presentation and first reading of the new amendment bill, the Speaker said Parliament will not review the decision of the Supreme Court.
He said what the House will correct an error and reinstate the right provisions.
The Speaker, therefore, referred the bill to the Committee on Defence and Interior for consideration to be reported back to the House within one week.
He also directed the leadership of the Committee on Constitutional, Parliamentary and Legal Affairs, as well as the Committee on Health to attend the meetings of the Defence and Interior Committee to ensure that the report captures all aspects or perspectives of the subject matter.
Explaining the rationale behind the move to amend Act 1019, Mr Dery said it had become necessary because of the majority decision in the case of Ezuame Mannan vs the Attorney-General and the Speaker of Parliament on July 27, 2022.
In the said majority decision by the apex court, it was declared that section 43 of Act 1019 was unconstitutional and, therefore, null and void.
“Mr Speaker, permit to say that I respect the decision of the Supreme Court but I do not agree with it.
“Mr Speaker, the reason that has been given was that section 43 had not been debated before this House when the House was passing Act 1019,” he said.
Mr Dery explained that whenever a Speaker of the House states a matter was for the consideration of the House, it was open for debate and that the debate was not only when opposing views were expressed.
“At the end of it, when contrary views are expressed, the Speaker then puts the question for those in favour to say ‘Ayes’ and those who are not in favour to say ‘No’.
“So, consensus is part of the debate and, therefore, it was wrong for the Supreme Court to say that it was in violation of article 106 of the Constitution,” he said.
The minister also told the House that Act 1019 did not seek to legalise narcotics in Ghana.
He said the move was for Ghana to move in tandem with modern approach to the production of cannabis to specific specification for industrial and medicinal use.
Such move, he said, had actually been adopted by a number of African countries, including South, Lesotho, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Gambia and Malawi.