There is abundant literature on the impact of law enforcement on cannabis markets, but scant literature on the effects of law enforcement on cannabis users. This study undertook a qualitative exploration of police crackdowns as a form of structural violence and examined their impact on the well-being of street cannabis users in a Nigerian city.
The study was qualitative and descriptive. It was carried out in Uyo, southern Nigeria. Ninety-seven (97) frequent cannabis users (78 males and 19 females) took part. They were aged between 21 and 34 years and recruited from 11 cannabis hot-points in the city. Data were collected through in-depth, individual interviews, conducted over six-months. Data analysis was thematic and data-driven, involving identifying themes, assigning codes, revising codes and verification by independent qualitative methodology experts.
Police crackdowns are commonly experienced by street cannabis users. These do not reduce cannabis use, but displace cannabis markets. Crackdowns are associated with police brutality, confiscation of funds, drugs and belongings, stigma and discrimination, arrest and incarceration, which impacts negatively on the health, livelihoods and well-being of cannabis users. Cannabis users try to escape arrest by running from police, disposing of cannabis, disguising themselves and, when caught, bribing officers to secure release.
Crackdowns constitute a form of structural violence in the everyday life of cannabis users, and have negative effects on their health and social and economic well-being. Cannabis use should be decriminalized de facto and arrested users directed to treatment and skills training programmes. Treatment and social services for users should be expanded and legal aid interventions should be mounted to support users in addressing discriminatory practices and human rights violations.
Copyright © 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Cannabis; Crackdowns; Nigeria; Structural violence; Well-being
- PMID: 29414483
- DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2018.01.012