Background: Although illegal, Ghana has a long history of cannabis use. With changing perceptions, advocacy for legalization has increased globally. This study exams pharmacological evidence on the prospects and challenges of decriminalization and /or legalization of cannabis in Ghana.
Results: Cannabis and cannabinoids are a “pharmacological enigma” with unique ability to activate at least 3 of the 4 drug receptor super families. This include; inotropic Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid 1 (TRPV1), metabotropic Cannabinoid Receptors (CB) and nuclear Peroxisome Proliferator Activator Receptors (PPAR). Cannabinoid receptors also dimerize with other receptors creating distinctly new signaling pathways. Cannabis and cannabinoids show good anti- nociceptive, anti-inflammatory, immunosuppressant anti-emetogenic activity and variable anticonvulsant activity. It can play important role in palliative care, some rare intractable epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, cachexia and Opioid Use Disorder. Cannabis precipitates psychosis in individuals with underlying genetic susceptibility. Chronic cannabis use alter the neurobiology of adolescent brain, predisposing them to amotivational syndrome characterized by depersonalization and inhibited motivation for goal directed behavior. Cannabis is also a “gateway drug”; ushering users to “harder” substances of abuse and reinstating extinguished drug seeking behaviours. The recent tramadol abuse in Ghana may have been precipitated by previous and concurrent cannabis use. Furthermore, Ghana’s cannabis may have a higher propensity to induce detrimental effects because of preferential accumulation the psychotropic delta-9-Tetrathydrocannabinol as a result of the high tropical temperature and humidity.
Conclusion: There is not sufficient pharmacological evidence supporting criminalization of medical cannabis in Ghana. However, the same evidence does not support legalization of recreational cannabis.
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