There is a substance in Kenya that is quite controversial. It is made from the leaves of a naturally-occurring plant, and is traditionally the product of plucking the leaves of said plant, curing them, rolling them in some kind of paper- or another leaf- and then smoking it.
Those who plant it- illegally- make serious money, and it forms a fairly significant industry in Western Kenya. Those who partake of the finished product claim that it gives them a high, and that it leaves them feeling relaxed and at peace with the world.
It is the general reserve of gentlemen of a certain character, and when someone says they smoke it- an admission that is rare, because of the character aspersions that such an admission casts upon the person -people tend to make certain judgements about the smoker.
There is another substance, also made from plants. It is treated in more or less the same way as the former substance: it is plucked, dried in the sun or in a curing barn, rolled up in paper or in another leaf, and is then smoked.
Farmers swear by it in Western Kenya, and some claim it is superior fodder for cows – apparently, when cows are fed the fresh leaves of the plant, they produce milk in buckets. Those who smoke this substance claim that it gives them a high, and one can see this quite readily.
Others say it leaves them feeling mellow and relaxed, allowing them to focus on work and put in prodigious effort at whatever they are doing. When someone says they smoke this substance – such admissions are rare, too – their audience makes certain character assumptions about the person, too.
The first substance is super-deadly: it is the leading cause of preventable deaths worldwide. Eight million people die of diseases caused by it across the world annually. Of these, a million do not even smoke it themselves: they contract those diseases after inhaling the smoke second hand.
The World Health Organisation has initiated smoke-free days and runs strategies around the world encouraging people to give up smoking it and in the process quite literally save their lives.
The second substance is different. The number of people dying from diseases caused by smoking the second substance worldwide is exactly zero. The number of smokers killed as a result of second-hand ganja smoke from the second substance is also zero.
The World Health Organisation is not concerned about the second substance, because there is effectively no public health risk from smoking it. The first substance, which kills millions annually, is legal to grow, process, sell, buy, and smoke. It is tobacco.
The second substance, which kills no one and has not been shown to be a danger to public health anywhere, is illegal. It is cannabis.
So, why is it illegal? The Americans banned cannabis in the 1930s because they feared that it caused a “lust for blood” among Mexican immigrants. The British feared the same about colonised Africans, and so banned it.
The likes of Kenya inherited that ban from their colonial masters, and kept it. Outside of that, there is practically no reason why cannabis, which kills no one is illegal while tobacco and alcohol, which kill millions annually are legal.
Whoever is in charge, legalise the damn thing.