The Minister for the Interior has regained the power to grant a licence for the cultivation of cannabis, popularly referred to as “wee”, with a small quantity of its active properties for industrial and medicinal purposes.
The licence will strictly be for the cultivation of cannabis with not more than 0.3 per cent Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active ingredient of cannabis, on a dry weight basis and should be for industrial or medicinal purposes only.
Section 43 of Act 1019 stipulates that “the Minister on the recommendation of the Commission, may grant a licence for the cultivation of cannabis, popularly referred to as “wee” in Ghana, which is not more than 0.3 per cent THC content on a dry weight basis for industrial purposes for obtaining fibre or seed for medicinal purposes.”
The Bill, when assented to by the President, will further prohibit a person who has been granted a licence under the bill from cultivating cannabis for recreational use.
The empowerment came after Parliament passed the Narcotics Regulation Commission Amendment Bill, 2023 yesterday.
The bill will amend the Narcotics Commission Act, 2020 (Act 1019).
It amended Act 1019 to reintroduce section 43 that provided an opportunity for Parliament to debate the policy rationale of the provision in accordance with Article 106 of the Constitution and in compliance with the ruling of the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court’s ruling
The amendment to the Bill was triggered by a ruling of the Supreme Court in the case declaring Section 43 of Act 1019 as unconstitutional and, therefore, null and void.
In a 4-3 majority decision on July 28, 2022, a seven-member panel of the apex court held that Section 43 of Act 1019 violated Article 106 of the Constitution, which details the processes a bill must go through before it is passed into law by Parliament and therefore, the passage of the law was null and void.
In the view of the court, the lack of debate on Section 43 of Act 1019 amounted to not only to a direct violation of the letter of Article 106 of the Constitution, but also a violation of the spirit of the law.
“There was conspicuously no debate over such a critical and mode of policy by Parliament.
Needless to say, this conduct and mode of lawmaking defeats transparency and accountability enjoined by the Constitution.
“The dictates of constitutional fidelity, in our view, require that such a shift in policy, which is intended to result in a novel exception ought to be debated to satisfy the purpose of Article 106” the court said.
The apex court said failing that, the process adopted by Parliament offended the letter and the spirit of the Constitution.
“This conclusion does not, in any way, derogate from Parliament’s power and independence in the conduct of its proceedings but in accordance with our supreme Constitution,” the court held in the Ezuame vs the Attorney-General and the Speaker of Parliament case.
Urgency of the Bill
Moving a motion for the House to adopt the report of the Defence and Interior Committee which considered the bill, the Vice-Chairperson of the committee, Ophelia Mensah, said the committee met and determined that the bill was of an urgent nature and should, therefore, be taken under a certificate of urgency.
The Member of Parliament (MP) for Mfantseman said the urgency emanated from the numerous benefits Ghana stood to gain by empowering the Minister for the Interior to regulate the cultivation of cannabis which had not more than 0.3 per cent THC content on a dry weight basis.
“It came to the attention of the committee, prior to the ruling of the Supreme Court, the Narcotics Control Commission and the Ministry of the Interior had held pre-laying engagement with the Parliamentary Committee on Subsidiary Legislation on the Draft Regulations of Act 1019, including provisions for operationalising Section 43 of the Act.
“The reintroduction of the said section which was struck down as unconstitutional will, therefore, restore the Act to its full original provisions and accordingly pave the way for the regulations to be laid in Parliament in accordance with Article 11(7) of the Constitution and Order 77 of the Standing Orders of Parliament,” Ms Mensah said.
Additionally, the Mfantseman legislator said information gathered by the committee indicated that prior to the Supreme Court ruling, foreign investors had initiated preparations to commence investment in the cultivation of cannabis, including entering into agreements with local partners and joint venture companies.
“Some urgency is, therefore, required in the passage of the Bill to minimise potential losses to these interested investors,” Mrs Mensah added.