14 March 2017

Kenya: Researcher to Face Committee Over Bhang Legalisation

A man behind a petition to legalise planting, sale or trade in cannabis sativa commonly referred to as bhang will face a Parliamentary committee to defend his proposal.

Gwada Ogot, a researcher, writer and political analyst, will appear before the Senate Health Committee chaired by Migori Senator, Dr Wilfred Machage, to defend his position.

Mr Ogot wants the law passed to decriminalize the drug and tose serving jail terms for offences related to the drug be 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 due to the plant, he said, are due to its prohibition and said if legalized, it can be one of the cash crops and contribute in improving people's living standards besides, boosting the country's revenue.

If his wish is granted, bhang will be deleted from the list of narcotic drugs as listed 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, which is a variety of cannabis sativa that can be used for a range of purposes including being ideal for manufacturing fiber, lubricating oil, and medicinal purposes.

Mr Ogot is advocating for establishment of a Cannabis regulatory body-Cannabis Sativa Board of Kenya (CSBK), to oversee the sector to ensure planting, trade and consumption of the drug.

The committee will also seek public views on the matter.

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 drugs

In countries like Spain, Netherlands, Uruguay, Switzerland, Portugal and the State of Colorado in the USA, people freely smoke the drug but under certain regulations, and Kenya would join them if legislators agree to review the existing laws.

Mr Ogot, who has gone ahead to unleash biblical scriptures in a bid to convince the lawmakers and by extension Kenyans that it is pointless to ban the drug, said that the plant is a creation of God and all that is required is proper guidelines on its use.

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