January 22nd 2018

Society / Health & Science

Activist provokes vibrant debate on legalisation of bhang

Bhang is widely consumed in Africa and among the black diaspora in the Americas, notably the United States, Central America, Brazil and other Latin American countries with black population.

By Nyambura Muthoninmuthoni@kenyafreepress.comFriday, 07 Apr 2017 16:45 EAT

An activist has presented a petition to the Senate Health Committee to push for the lagalisation of marijuana, popularly known in Kenya as Bhang, provoking a vibrant debate among Kenyans on whether the substance which is among the most abused has more benefits than problems.

Mr Gwada Ogot from Siaya County says that marijuana has huge medicinal benefits and is also massively used in industry, hence it is time Kenya decriminalised the plant and reviewed its categorisation. He says the ban on marijuana is "old and outdated". "The age of legal cannabis is with us...it is time-based, cyclic and coincides with the age of light and knowledge," said the petitioner. "Cannabis is God's plant...a gift to mankind...just like the many minerals he has in store for Kenya. No one can stop this."

In his submissions to the committee chaired by Migori Senator Wilfred Machage, the researcher said Kenya criminalised the use of bhang based on ignorance and lies propagated by Western countries. He said cannabis is projected to be a one-step solution for global medicinal and industrial needs. "This effort to legalise cannabis in Kenya is a first and conscious step towards achieving medicinal and industrial self sufficiency nationally and on the continent," he said.

The petitioner said that legalisation of the drug would constitute "a statement to western nations that Kenya and Africa have come of age because it is they who precipitated the ban," asserting that industrial cannabis offers Africa a comprehensive and valuable raw material base. Bhang is widely consumed in Africa and among the black diaspora in the Americas, notably the United States, Central America, Brazil and other Latin American countries with black population.

Gwada said this is necessary for transformation from a net consumer of imported goods and commodities to a net producer and exporter. To back his petition, he admitted before the committee that he consumed the herb during his teen years.

Gwada further noted that most countries in Europe and Asia, as well as America, have recently legalised the marijuana.
Colombia, Mexico, Czech Republic, Costa Rica, Ireland, Australia, Jamaica, and Germany were listed among those that have decriminalised the herb.

Others included Philippines, Netherlands, Uruguay, North Korea, Virgin Islands, Nicaragua and the US. "Credit to science, this phenomenal legalisation rate has validated the place of the herb by effectively eradicating stigmatisation," he said.

"This high number not only explains, through exigencies of time, but also validates the latent potential of the herb." Machage said the committee will investigate the matter which he termed as an opportunity to discover crucial medicine. He said the team will organise a workshop that will bring together researchers, doctors and others to discuss the relationship between marijuana and crime.

"It is not the work of the Senate to criminalise your thinking but it will investigate the matter and make a decision on what is good for the country."

Section 3 (2) (a) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Control Act lists cannabis as a banned substance. The law states that possession or personal use of the drug is criminal. A compound in marijuana known as cannabidiol (CBD) has been found by scientists as fit for the treatment of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a long-term mental disorder involving a breakdown in relating thought, emotion, and behavior. Patients with the condition exhibit faulty perception and inappropriate actions and feelings.

Bhang should be legalized because if something is illegal, many consumers of it tend to use it from the underground and increases the number of the users. 

Ndungu Wainaina, a civil society activist, said, "Kenya should legalize controlled marijuana use. This way would address certain beneficial use of marijuana", a position supported by security expert Andrew Franklin, who said: "Just legalize marijuana for use by adults over 18; medical marijuana to be prescribed to anyone as required. Kenya really does not need any more regulations and laws!"


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