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Why Facts Remain Stubborn in The Marijuana Debate

By Simon Mwangi

There is heightened debate on marijuana in the country, primarily attributed to the fact that it is political high season and some quarters have stoked the embers of excitement that follow the topic. To some, this discourse has brought profound delight while to others it is a reminder that there is an urgent need to continually share facts about cannabis. In the end, the public debate provides an opportunity for all of us to try and understand the various perspectives from which the entire discussion is being undertaken.

It is a fact that cannabis is a controlled substance and is scheduled under the Single Narcotic Convention of 1961 as amended by the 1972 protocol, the Convention on Psychotropic substances of 1971 and United Nations Convention against illicit trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.

Unlike other plant-based drugs where cultivation and production is concentrated in a few countries, cannabis is produced in almost all countries making it the most widely used drug worldwide. According to the 2021 World Drug Report, it is estimated that about 200 Million people aged 15 – 64 years have used Cannabis in their lifetime.  Globally, Cannabis is regarded as a problematic drug, in that, it is a gateway to addiction and abuse of other psychoactive substances.

There has been trending misinformation revolving cannabis cultivation and its use and thus it is critical to point out some basic truths. For instance, in Africa, only South Africa has allowed the recreational use of cannabis though there are stringent measures prohibiting its public use. Other countries such as Morocco, Rwanda, Uganda, Lesotho, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi have allowed commercial growing and trade in the plant but once again its recreational use remains prohibited.

In Kenya, cannabis remains the drug of choice amongst narcotic users. Data from a national survey conducted in 2017 showed that at least 1% of the country’s population aged between 15-65 years are current users of cannabis. Cannabis has also permeated our institutions of learning with current data showing that 7.5% of high school students have ever used cannabis and 1.2% amongst primary school pupils. Kenya’s Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act 2022 provides for the medical and scientific use of cannabis though recreational and commercial trade remains prohibited.   

Internationally, nineteen states, two territories, and the District of Columbia have legalized small amounts of cannabis (marijuana) for adult recreational use. Most recently, Rhode Island passed the Rhode Island Cannabis Act. In late June of 2021, Connecticut legalized the recreational use of cannabis with the passage of legislation. Some aspects of the bill do not take effect immediately, but those twenty-one years old and higher started to recreationally use cannabis from last July.
There is need to provide facts on marijuana even as the hot political debate regarding its cultivation and use is going on. It is also critical to balance between the various interests that are pulling in opposite directions with respect to the discussion.

Published by Daily Nation on 29th June 2022