Legalizing Weed Could Save Endangered Chimps in Nigeria

Marijuana and the protection of endangered species are rarely things we mention in the same conversation, never mind the same sentence. However, a growing problem in Nigeria suggests that it might be time to start.

Despite mounting scientific evidence to the contrary, marijuana is still classified as a narcotic drug by most world governments. Forbidden to grow this plant or to purchase it from growers legally, those who wish to take advantage of its physical and emotional benefits are forced into the black market.

Depending on who you ask, the illegal sale of marijuana generates between $10 and $120 billion in revenue a year. It’s no wonder criminals are willing to risk life and limb to grow, even if it means jail time or worse. Desperate for money, illegal marijuana growers have taken to Nigeria’s forests, a move that threatens resident wildlife.

The Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee is considered the most threatened of the four subspecies and is listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Unfortunately for this threatened chimp, its home happens to be the very forests that marijuana growers are clear-cutting in order to meet the black market demand for weed.

During a 2012 survey, researchers participating in The Southwest/Niger Delta Forest Project found that half of the deforestation occurring in these reserves from 2010 to 2012 appeared to be the result of cannabis cultivation.

“Demand for the marijuana product is soaring,” Rachel Ashegbofe Ikemeh, Coordinator and Principal Investigator of the The Southwest/Niger Delta Forest Project, told “Profits from marijuana crops can come in within 6 – 8 months of planting, fetching 2 – 3 times more money than could be gotten from cultivating other food crop…”

This is a side-effect of marijuana prohibition that you won’t hear on the radio or in a politician’s speech. But it’s important to consider. Keeping cannabis illegal, despite widespread public approval for recreational weed, or at the very least decriminalization, is taking its toll on the planet, not to mention our economy and culture.

The war on drugs, which many admit has been a dismal failure, costs the American government (aka taxpayers) $20 billion dollars a year and ruins lives when growers and consumers are thrown in jail for possession of a plant. Now, we’ve come to realize that forcing marijuana into the black market is also destroying vital forest ecosystems where our closet biological relatives are struggling to survive.

As more countries, like Uruguay, and U.S. states, like Colorado and Washington, begin to legalize recreational marijuana use, it’s likely we’ll see demand for black market weed decline dramatically, if not disappear. For the chimps of Nigeria, this can’t happen soon enough.

Photo Credit: USAID Africa Bureau


Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Debbie Tate
Debra Tate4 years ago

Here is Dr. Gupta's study and why he changed his stance on weed!

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R4 years ago

We keep hearing about all of the benefits of mj/hemp, yet, it remains illegal. With all of the problems that alcohol causes (soooo many more than mj would ever cause) but alcohol remains legal. What's the problem? I could almost guarantee the reelection of any politician that would work toward the legalization of marijuana. In the meantime, there are so many that would be helped by medical usage but, instead, they continue to suffer. Sad and stupid.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Melissa A.
Melissa A4 years ago

Daryl, you're an idiot, and a crude one at that. Look at crime stars related to the drug cartels, who are pumping money from the black market directly into the political campaigns of the fools you vote for! The legalization of mj would put them out of business.
It is the drug dealers on the streets that are shooting each other & innocent bystanders in a turf war that can only end when their market is dissolved. Wake up. You're buying into propaganda designed to keep the drug kingpins in business, and in doing so, to keep gangsters shooting each other on street corners.
Weed doesn't make anybody violent, greed does!

sue higgins
sue higgins4 years ago

If marijuana is made legal then hopefully it won't be corrupt anymore...... no more lost habitat and no hugh profits to make and if we can start to save some of our ever decreasing rainforest what an added bonus that would be. i personally think its all good and should happen and not just in the states there are a lot of people who suffer with all kinds of pain and this would ease their suffering too if they could legally buy what they needed

janet T.
janet t4 years ago

We would put a lot of criminals out of business if we all could grow weed in our backyards. People used to grow their own vegetables and herbs for food and herbs for medicine, we all need to do that again and a little area for pot plants would not go amiss.

Mike Wilkinson
Mike Wilkinson4 years ago

I am all for ''Legalization'' of marijuana, here in Washington we really gave the government our souls for legal weed....I would rather have no government interference in growing a few plants during the summer...but the government takes our rights away and sells them back to us for a price.....and yes I live in Seattle.....and I like hash and psychedelics too......just another mush brained hippie hillbilly......

karen n.
karen n4 years ago


Joseph Belisle
Joseph Belisle4 years ago

Read the posts here. Read the ones for legalization and the ones against. It becomes obvious what kind of person supports legalization and what kind of person is against it.

We shouldn't be having this arguement any more. We need to end the stupidity and greed.