Marijuana (or bhang) as most people prefer to call it, is rated a narcotic; all thanks to what the 8-4-4 system of education in the country has been teaching people since their days in primary school. Whether or not to use bhang is a topic that continues to baffle many due to the semi-legal nature of its use. This is because these days, it is not as serious an offence as it used to be, say a decade back. Not because the law has changed, but the way law enforcers, particularly the police, handle cases. The sad reality in Kenya is that once you get yourself in the hands of the police for the possession or use of the substance, you can get bailed out as long as you are humble and have pockets deep enough to bribe your way out of the smelly police cells situated at the nearest police station, or if you are lucky enough, the police landrover just before it gets there. Not to forget, it can get serious if you decline to pay bribes and be hard-headed at the same time.
Anyway, should the High Court legalize bhang or not?
Yes! Some of the reasons are pretty obvious.
Regardless of the form in which bhang is consumed, the substance has been proven to have medicinal value. In fact, some people in the United States have legal prescriptions for medical marijuana for the treatment of various diseases and conditions. So, in Kenya, legalization can involve the use of medical marijuana as directed by qualified doctors.
Regarding the health situation in Kenyan hospitals, the legalization could go a long way in significantly reducing the long waiting queues and congestion both in the long and short term. It would also save ordinary Kenyan's millions of shillings in health care money.
According to basic scientific knowledge, bhang is a relaxant and antidepressant because it induces calmness in users. In light of the situation in Kenya currently, people are stressed in their minds. The stress, aggravated in part and to a large extent by the COVID-19 pandemic, is increasingly resulting into mental illnesses, mainly depression. The overall mental health of Kenyan's is worsening each day and the government's health sector seems to have no control over it, making it a personal responsibility. Therefore, legalization of bhang means significant improvements in mental health. Since smoking bhang in hiding is also stressful, legalization will give the people peace of mind of using it.
Most bhang users tend to consume it in the form of smoke. Bhang can also be consumed as a vegetable by frying with tomatoes and onions and serving hot with cornmeal. Other forms include pills, gels, and powder. These forms allow usage of bhang in a more environmentally friendly manner and should not prevent its legalization. Besides, bhang grows naturally on land without the need for environmentally hazardous chemicals.
Legalization will allow people to make a living from selling bhang as a commodity in local stores and shops.
Land owners seeking to be bhang growers will have the opportunity to maximize the agricultural productivity of their lands in areas with favourable climatic conditions. The Kenyan government will have more tax revenue from bhang-related businesses which will significantly add to the total National GDP.
Endless possibilities in Value Addition
The High Court should consider that with value addition, bhang can be used to make a wide variety of excellent products. However. this vision cannot be realized until after legalization because it allows the masses to get positively and confidently creative and innovative to do value addition and all that pertains to the world of bhang.
Desirable Social Change
Legalization will change the general social attitudes towards bhang. On seeing the benefits, the Kenyan population, especially the youth, will now heavily begin to challenge the status quo and question every norm. This will lead to people redifining their identity as Kenyans at individual level, and that is remarkable. Besides, more people will be drawn into experiencing the goodness in bhang and will start to look at the world differently.
In support of the rastafarians movement, the government should therefore fast-track the legalization process because the Kenyan people can't wait to experience a better Kenya.
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