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MP in push for Kenya to legalise bhang

by kenya-tribune

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Kibra MP Ken Okoth has joined the growing number of people who want the use and growth of marijuana – scientifically known as cannabis sativa – legalised in Kenya.

MP Okoth has written to National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi asking for facilitation in preparing the Marijuana Control Bill, which seeks to decriminalise its growth and use in the country.

The second-time lawmaker also wants amnesty measures instituted for the removal of criminal records against citizens with prior convictions for marijuana use.

He has further proposed progressive taxation measures for the marijuana industry, to boost economic independence and job creation.

“The purpose of this letter is therefore to request for assistance in preparation of the necessary Bill for publication, a working draft is hereby attached…,” Mr Okoth said in the letter dated September 21, 2018.

In the draft Bill, the legislator seeks regulation for the growth and safe use of the stimulant and another one known as hemp. This includes the registration of growers, producers, manufacturers and users, with special focus on protection of children or minors from its illicit use.

Mr Okoth also wants research and policy development done on the growth and use of the stimulants for medical, industrial and recreational purposes, with special focus on preservation of intellectual property rights for Kenyan research and natural heritage, knowledge and indigenous plant assets.

MP Okoth’s draft Bill seems to borrow heavily from that of Gwada Ogot from Siaya County, who in February 2017 petitioned the Senate to have marijuana legalised.

Mr Ogot wanted marijuana expunged from the list of banned substances and a new law passed to establish a regulatory body to govern its use.

He also recommended that all the people serving jail sentences – either for possession, cultivation, transportation, sale or use of the plant – be granted amnesty.

Mr Ogot argued that the substance has multiple documented benefits including medicinal and industrial uses as well as social and economic gains.

The planned draft Bill comes amid calls by a section of Kenyans for the use and growth of the stimulant to be permitted.

On September 14, Raila Junior called on the government to legalise marijuana, saying serious discussions on legalisation and control needed to be held.

Raila Junior is the son of National Super Alliance (Nasa) coalition leader Raila Odinga.

In March, a researcher petitioned the National Assembly’s Health committee to legalise bhang, claiming Kenya loses Sh1.5 trillion annually in foreign exchange.

Mr Simon Mwaura, from Hyaquip Kenya — a science and innovation company — said bhang is not as bad as people have been made to believe and that it is even more dangerous to smoke cigarettes.

He claimed that he carried out research on bhang alongside miraa in 2013 and came up with a way to separate the psychotropic components and leave the plants safe for consumption.

In September last year, Mr Mwaura unsuccessfully petitioned the National Assembly to approve the licensing of at least 150,000 farmers to grow bhang, saying food supplements could be extracted.

On Tuesday, a South African Constitutional Court approved the private use and cultivation of cannabis and declared as unconstitutional, three sections of the Constitution that prohibited cannabis consumption, possession and cultivation.

According to the World Drug Report, marijuana is the most widely used drug – 3.9 percent of people aged 15 to 64 used it at least once in 2016 with the majority of increased use in recent years was recorded in Africa and Asia.

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