A man has petitioned the Senate to legalise the smoking of bhang (Cannabis sativa).
Gwada Ogot told the Senate's Health committee Thursday that the banning of bhang in Kenya and most African states was based on ignorance and business conspiracies by leading American and European firms.
Mr Ogot, a Busia-based researcher, told the committee led by Migori Senator Wilfred Machage that the plant's products had medicinal value and that the ban should also be lifted for commercial purposes.
“Scientifically, it has been proved that bhang treats 677 medical conditions. Countries like Germany, Israel, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands recently legalised cannabis for medicinal use. Kenya must follow suit,” he said.
“The plant is God’s gift to mankind just as the many minerals he has put in store for Kenyans. The banning was purely for commercial interests with pharmaceutical firms seeking to control the medical industry during the first and second world wars.”
Dr Machage said the committee would consider the petition, noting that as a medical doctor, he was aware that some medicines could be extracted from the plant.
“We cannot rule out the medicinal value of bhang; even snake poison has medicinal value,” said the senator who also disclosed that the committee would soon hold a conference of eminent persons, including psychiatrists, to deliberate over the issue.
Last month, Nyamira Senator Okong’o Mong’are, who is also eyeing the presidency in the August 8 polls, filed a similar petition before the House.
The petition drew strong opposition from a number of senators. Others emphasised that the plant’s by-products could be used after extensive research.
“It doesn’t mean that if the plant is legalised, it will destroy lives. It depends on the level of indulgence. I used it as a juvenile. I was also in India, where the plant is legalised, but it is vital if people are disciplined. You can choose not to use it,” said Mr Mong’are, whose admission that he once smoked bhang shocked his colleagues.
“As a House, we can come up with regulations that encourage deterrence. The Government can allow it but have regulations in place that restrict use."
Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji threw his weight behind the senator, pleading with his colleagues not to disallow the petition and arguing that Mong’are had used the plant but still managed to become a legislator.
“The gentleman’s petition should be allowed and he should appear before the committee to explain himself. Senator Okong’o used it but that didn’t prevent him from being a legislator,” said Mr Haji.