Since 1901

Do wealthy people smoke weed?


The recent push to have marijuana legalised by some Rastafarians has raised eyebrows. But I won’t comment on the matter since it’s before court. My only concern is the enduring association of weed with the poor.

Back in my college days, a local tycoon hired me to coach his kids during the holidays. I am not much of a teacher but since I needed the mullah, I took up the job. One day, after just getting paid, I headed to the local watering hole which was mostly patronized by local wadosi. I hoisted myself on a sina tabu, asked for a drink and buried my head in the day’s newspaper.

Minutes later, my ‘employer’ sauntered in, his kitambi leading the way. He didn’t hide his surprise that I was taking his favourite drink. When he could no longer stand my offending presence, he took me aside, pointed a brutal finger at me then said: ‘Kijana, where do you get money to drink? Young men like you should be taking bangi, not beer.’

I saw a group of his peers, rich aristocrats who wore opulence like ribbons on their chest, nod in agreement. They say might is right so I took the verbal jibe in my stride, then fled like a rat that had been caught in the kitchen. I didn’t take the mzee’s advice though, but just went to another joint where my presence was less offensive.

There have been several pushes to have bangi legalised in this country. Most of these pushes have a pattern: hey don’t come from the rich. Rather, they come from the common mwananchi. A rich man going to court to have weed legalised would be out of place like a pastor in a nude show.

 A casual check in any court of persons charged with possession of bhangi yields the same pattern, it’s a thing for the poor. Most of them are fellows with roughhewn faces hardened with time and labour. Faces with wrinkles no lotion can remove as opposed to faces that were nurtured on cerelac. There was this joke in campus: the rougher the face of the peddler, the better the quality of his supply. These youths end up in jails which are more damaging to the individual than the few ounces of weed they were caught with.

Does that mean that the rich don’t consume weed? Which came before the other-the poor’s love for the weed or the rich men mentality that the weed is for the downtrodden? Is it the weed that makes people poor or do the poor just love weed?

It’s impossible to answer this hen or egg conundrum without wading into the social ambiguities around drugs use. But anytime some of these social conundrums confound me, I recall my uncle’s folksy views after I told him about the above incidence. Not that he takes the stuff, but no one is too sure what composes the pungent kiraiku or hand rolled cigarettes he smokes.

Uncle gave me a lengthy lecture about why the law criminalizes chang’aa but allows gin to be sold in top hotels. The one who eats with a spoon doesn’t know the one who eats with his fingers gets scalded, he mumbled.