Legalisation of Cannabis - OkayAfrica

LAMU, KENYA - MARCH 01: Young rasta man chewing qat in the street, Lamu County, Lamu, Kenya on March 1, 2011 in Lamu, Kenya.

Photo by Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images.

Kenyan Rastafarians Want Cannabis Unbanned for Religious Reasons

The Rastafari Society of Kenya argues that the personal use of cannabis, which is currently outlawed in the country, is an integral part of their religion.

According to local media reports, the Rastafari Society of Kenya has gone before the High Court to argue in favour of the personal use of cannabis. Currently illegal in Kenya, the minority religious group argues that the laws criminalising the use of cannabis in Kenya are prejudiced towards their religion given that the substance is a "sacrament connecting believers to their creator." Cannabis is commonly used as incense to initiate religious practises by Rastafarians and is often followed by a series of praises and prayers.

READ: A Rastafarian Girl Was Banned from School in Kenya Because of Her Locks

Under Section 3 of Kenya's Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Control Act, the private and public use of cannabis, cultivation for commercial purposes and the general sale of the substance is prohibited. The CEO of the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA), Victor Okioma, espouses the strict use of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes but not for recreational activities.

However, Shadrack Wambui, the attorney representing the Rastafari Society of Kenya, says the following:

"The impugned law which was enacted in the year 1994 is hostile and intolerant to persons professing the Rastafari faith yet we are in a new constitutional framework following the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 that is progressive and accommodative of diversity."

Unlike Kenya, there are several countries on the continent which have permitted the use of cannabis in varying forms. Lesotho recently became the first African country to obtain permission to export cannabis to the European Union after the Lesotho-based company, MG Health, was recognised for its high quality production standards. The cannabis flower is reportedly set to be used as a pharmaceutical ingredient. South Africa, on the other hand, decriminalised the personal use of cannabis in a private residence back in 2018 following a landmark judgement by the Constitutional Court. The country is now looking at how to enter into the industry and create a viable business sector.