Why should bhang be legalised and all those behind bars for trading in the plant set free?
House team will seek answers to this question as the man behind the petition to legalise cannabis sativa, commonly referred to as bhang, faces the Senate Health Committee to defend his proposal.
“I am ready to defend my research. I have a wealth of evidence on this subject,” Gwada Ogot, a researcher, writer and political analyst, said on Thursday.
Mr Ogot wants the law passed to decriminalise the drug and those serving jail terms for offences related to the drug set free.
“I pray the House recommends amnesty for all people jailed for possession, usage, sale, cultivation and transportation of cannabis sativa. Criminalising cannabis creates criminals where none existed,” Mr Ogot said.
Crimes and controversies over the plant, he said, are due to its prohibition, adding that if legalised, it can be one of the cash crops and contribute to improving people’s living standards besides boosting the country’s revenue.
If his proposal sails through, bhang will be deleted from the list of narcotic drugs in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1994.
“Research has indicated that bhang can be used for medicinal purposes to cure diseases. It is disease resistant and can be replanted several times a year without use of pesticides,” Mr Ogot argued in the petition.
He particularly cites ‘industrial hemp’ – a variety of cannabis sativa – that can be used for a range of purposes including manufacturing fibre, lubricating oil, and medicinal purposes.
Mr Ogot is advocating for establishment of a cannabis regulatory body – Cannabis Sativa Board of Kenya (CSBK), to oversee planting, trade and consumption of the drug.
The committee will also seek public views on the matter before preparing a report about the viability of the proposal.
It will be interesting to see how the lawmakers handle the proposal given that Kenya, which boasts of one of East Africa’s busy port, is considered a transit point for narcotic drugs.
In countries like Spain, Netherlands, Uruguay, Switzerland and Portugal and the state of Colorado in the United States, people freely smoke the drug but under certain regulations, and Kenya would join them if legislators agree to review the existing laws.