Kenya Revives the Discussion on the Legalization of Marijuana after the Death of MP Ken Okoth

The death of Kibra Member of Parliament, Ken Okoth, was shocking to many Kenyans, especially the residents of Kibra. He succumbed on Friday 26th of July 2019 to Colorectal Cancer. Many remember him as a selfless and courageous person. Another thing he will always be remembered for is for petitioning for the legalization of marijuana in Kenya. On the 21st of September 2018, he wrote the National Assembly Speaker, Justin Muturi, pushing for the legalization and regulation of marijuana to ensure its safe usage.

The letter read, “The proposed Bill seeks to ensure that there is regulation for growth and safe use of marijuana and hemp including the registration of growers, producers, manufacturers and users with special focus on protecting children/minors from illicit use just as we do with tobacco and alcohol.”

Similarly, in February 2017, a researcher, writer and political analyst, Gwada Ogot, faced the Senate on the same topic. According to him, marijuana has medicinal benefits and when legalized, it can be grown as a cash crop which will improve the country’s economy. He also mentioned that the plant is disease resistant and therefore does not require pesticides.

In 2018, a Kenyan scientist, Professor Simon Mwaura also petitioned for the same. He claimed that he had found a way to separate the plant’s psychotropic elements, which is what causes ‘highness’, making it fit for consumption by all, besides having medicinal value.

“You can blend it with coffee, tea, beet, spirits; it has very good compatibility,” he disclosed.

After the demise of MP Ken Okoth, however, the discussion has grown stronger. More people and leaders are now in support of the decriminalization of the growth, transportation, and use of marijuana. The Women Representative for Nairobi, Esther Passaris, made it clear in a post on Twitter that she supports the use of marijuana for medicinal purpose.

At Ken Okoth’s memorial mass, Nairobi’s Governor Mike Sonko said during his speech, “Our brother who has fallen had a very important proposition, people are afraid to say controversial things but I will say it, our brother wanted marijuana/bhang to be legalized. And because we hear that bhang is medicinal and can cure cancer, youthful legislators present here like Babu Owino, KJ and Jaguar, do not let that good work started by Ken Okoth to end with his death. Push through with that Bill and see to it that bhang is legalized.”

The issue of cancer is, of course, very alarming in Kenya. In the same month of July 2019, apart from just MP Ken Okoth, Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore and Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso lost their lives due to cancer. The topic of legalization of Marijuana is still very controversial and many Kenyans are not sure whether it would be a wise decision.

If Kenya eventually permits the use of marijuana, it will join African countries like Lesotho, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Other countries in the world that have allowed its use are Uruguay, Jamaica, Switzerland, Spain, The Netherlands, Canada, and many others.