Kenya: Rastafarians Fight to Use Bhang As Sacrament, for Religions Purposes

Members of the Rastafarian community in Nakuru (file photo).

A group of Rastafarians has moved to court seeking to block the arrest and prosecution of its members over use of marijuana for religious purposes.

The group under the Ras Tafari Society of Kenya (RSK) wants the High Court to suspend sections 3 (1)(2)(a) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act.

The Rastafarians argue the law enacted in 1994 is hostile and intolerant to persons professing the Rastafari faith, yet the Constitution is a progressive and accommodative document that protects marginalised groups, such as theirs.

"Members of RSK are forced to live in fear as a minority religious group in Kenya as the current legislative framework is inimical to their religious practices, as it fails to reasonably accommodate the Rastafari use of marijuana as a manifestation of their faith and for their connectedness with the almighty creator," their petition reads.

The group wants the court to issue orders stopping the arrest and prosecution of its members for growing cannabis sativa for spiritual use in their homes or designated places of worship such as Rasta tabernacles and mansions.

Through lawyer Shadrack Wambui, the society argues that the insensitivity and unconstitutionality of the law is demonstrated by intolerance to the use of bhang by persons professing the Rastafari faith.

It further says the petition raises substantial questions of law and that the matter should be referred to the Chief Justice for appointment of a bench of judges of an uneven number to hear the case.

The group also says its members require spiritual growth and use of marijuana, which they say is used as a sacrament and for connection of the Rasta and his creator.

"The use of cannabis, especially among members of RSK and any other person professing the Rastafari faith, is outlawed by dint of the said section, thus criminalising the rastas spiritual use of cannabis, yet the manifestation of their religion enjoys constitutional protection," the petition states.

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