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Kenya Doesn’t Buy Into Cannabis Legalization; Steps Up ‘War Against Drugs’

Kenya Doesn’t Buy Into Cannabis Legalization; Steps Up ‘War Against Drugs’

Bruhan Makong, Capital News, Nairobi

28 September 2023 at 09:00:00

Senior Kenyan security official urges the country to resist the global push for the commercialization of cannabis, calls for cross-border ties in combating drug trafficking and a new approach to rehabilitation of ‘substance abusers.’

This report from posted on 27 September 2023.

Abuja — Kenya has appealed for increased cross-border cooperation among African nations to combat the escalating drug trafficking crisis that has plagued the continent.

Kenya's Secretary for National Administration in the State Department of Internal Security, Beverly Opwora, who is leading the Kenyan delegation at the 31st meeting of the Heads of Drug Law Enforcement Agencies in Africa (HONLAF) in Abuja, Nigeria, voiced concerns over the surge in demand, usage of psychotropic and narcotic drugs, and the misuse of precursor chemicals.

The call for action comes amid alarming trends that indicate African countries are no longer just transit routes for illicit drug trafficking, as domestic consumption of these drugs continues to rise.

"The continued illicit cultivation and trafficking of drugs across the borders calls for cross-border cooperation among African states so as to stem this trend," she said.

Kenya is represented by the Ministry of Interior and National Administration, the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA), Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) and the Financial Reporting Centre (FRC) in the regional event.

The participants observed that drug cultivation, trafficking, and consumption have placed additional strains on the continent's socio-economic growth, already grappling with challenges such as drought, poverty, diseases, and corruption.

Controlled substances

Opwora reiterated Kenya's stance against the global push for the commercialization of controlled substances like Cannabis for non-medical purposes and called for improved mechanisms for rehabilitating drug users rather than resorting to incarceration.

"As a country we believe drug users require treatment and not discrimination or incarceration," she added.

Further, she stressed the need to prioritize coordinated efforts by law enforcement agencies and NACADA in addressing these emerging trends, including the increased use and abuse of synthetic substances.

"In addressing the drug abuse challenge, Kenya is actively implementing a two-pronged drug control strategy focusing on demand reduction and supply suppression," she said.

In March, while releasing the Global Report on Cocaine 2023, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) revealed that the Nigerian market tops the list of cocaine smuggling regions in Africa.

Speaking at the forum, the NACADA acting Chief Executive Officer John Muteti revealed some of the strategies the Authority is employing in demand reduction in Kenya.

He singled out targeted mass media campaigns, life skills empowerment to children and youth, positive parenting and strong families and workplace prevention programmes alongside treatment and rehabilitation for persons with substance use disorders.

"On supply reduction, Kenya has put in place efficient enforcement agencies and enhanced their coordination with key stakeholders including those in the criminal justice system. This has boosted control measures thereby facilitating effective surveillance, enforcement, investigations and prosecution of drug-related offenses," he added.

Complex challenge

Muteti acknowledged the complexity and dynamism of the global drug problem, calling for substantial investments in building technical and infrastructural capacities to support effective investigations, prosecutions, and other criminal justice processes.

"Alongside capacity building, there is need for enhanced international cooperation and collaboration at all levels noting that drug control is a shared responsibility. However, all these efforts should be anchored to the three international conventions on drug control," he said.

In November 2022, Kenya hosted the 30th edition of this meeting where important topics for the Region, such as drug trafficking trends, new concealment methods and how to detect them were discussed.

Also discussed was the alternatives to conviction and punishment, improving regional cooperation to address the negative consequences of drug trafficking and problematic use.

The meeting was officially opened by the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Kashim Shettima.

HONLAF, a subsidiary body of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) and UNODC, was chaired by Kenya for the past year and has now passed the leadership to Nigeria.


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