“Cowardice”. That’s the accusation laid at the door of Nairobi’s executive by frustrated parliamentarian John Kiarie, who says the government is deliberately blinding itself to the economic benefits of cannabis.
The Dagoretti MP made the call in the National Assembly during a debate on the 2019 Crops bill when he vouched for a law legalizing the industrial and medicinal use of marijuana.
Kenyan MP Kiarie: Hemp is the Real Deal
“I feel it is time we also consider legalizing marijuana in this country Mr. Speaker. I know marijuana is pest-resistant. It is time we stopped being cowards as a house and start looking at crops that will be of benefit to this country,” he said.
Growing Chorus for Legalization
He said that legalizing marijuana should not be misconstrued as calling for its recreational use. Hemp, he said, is the real deal.
“This is for us to open our minds so that we reap from the benefits of a crop that is not affected by pests and diseases and is also drought resistant,” the MP added.
“This is a discussion that we will open as we have a holistic look at how we tackle agriculture.”
He added that there was the need to rethink the country’s agriculture sector holistically to get maximum benefit in crops such as marijuana and bixa. Cannabis sativa, he said, is the world’s most popular drug and has a high therapeutic value despite being illegal in Kenya.
The legislature joins the growing chorus pushing for the legalisation of marijuana, including popular band Sauti Sol and outspoken Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina. Legalization has been on the cards since 2018 when former Kibra MP Ken Okoth wrote to National Assembly speaker Justin Muturi to ask him to facilitate the Marijuana Control Bill, which sought to decriminalise the growth and use of the stimulant.
Marijuana is currently considered a narcotic in Kenya and its cultivation, possession and use are a criminal offence under the Penal Code.
One can be jailed for between 10 and 20 years if convicted even as the drug is widely used or abused by many people locally.
Scientists have hailed the drug’s medicinal value with research showing that it is effective in fighting chronic pain, some cancers, glaucoma, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and depression among others.
The late Okoth, who died of cancer, in his draft Bill to parliament, sought to have a regulation for the growth and safe use of the stimulant, including the registration of growers, producers, manufacturers and users.
Cannabis Historically Used as Medicine in Kenya
The late MP also wanted research and policy development on growth and use of marijuana and help for medical, industrial, textile and recreational purposes “with a focus on preservation of intellectual property rights for Kenyan research and natural heritage, knowledge and our indigenous plant assets.”
Raila Junior is the newest crusader for the legalization of bhang in Kenya.
Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s son Raila Junior is also a campaigner for legalization, saying ‘bhang’ would go a long way in benefitting persons living with HIV Aids.
“Marijuana was used back in history as pain reliever during childbirth among other medicinal purposes. It can be used as a chronic pain reliever for cancers survivors or a stimulant for appetites that does not need to be smoked and this can help many patients including those affected with HIV-AIDS,” he said during a recent radio interview.
Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina wants the government to legalize marijuana in the country.
Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina has picked up Okath’s cause. Taking to social media, Senator Ledama Ole Kina called on Kenya to follow other countries that had legalized cannabis.
“Why is it that we in Kenya are still stuck with the old way of saying that this is an illegal drug…this is crazy…it really smells like weed, I might get out of here, high,” Olekina said.
The outspoken legislator went further to say, “If this is good to reduce the pain in cancer patients, why don’t you legalize it, what is so bad about it, we only live once. All this is weed, and it is legal, damn! I would like to live here.”