Kenya should have a serious discussion on marijuana legalisation | Opinions

Kenyan election campaigns have at all times thrown up their justifiable share of absurdities. The present one has been no completely different. In the midst of it, now we have realized that the electoral fee is certain to just accept doubtful paperwork from candidates for workplace as a result of, the courts have dominated, it has no constitutional or authorized mandate to confirm their authenticity.

Now we have additionally realized how the incumbent president, Uhuru Kenyatta, was a software for others’ ambition. We already knew that he practically aborted his 2013 run attributable to what he claimed had been “darkish forces”. 4 years later, we are actually advised, him practically being slapped by his estranged deputy, William Ruto, was accountable for his staying on after the Supreme Courtroom had annulled his re-election. In truth, the Ruto near-slap apparently additionally terrorised others in Kenyatta’s cupboard, with the defence cupboard secretary claiming he and his counterpart on the inside ministry had additionally had a detailed brush with it.

It’s to be anticipated that after the elections are completed and dusted, the outrageousness will die down considerably and be forgotten. Nonetheless, generally the craziness can open helpful doorways. Take the marketing campaign of Professor George Wajackoyah for instance. He has promised to make Kenya one of many richest international locations on the planet by exporting hyena testicles, snake venom and copious quantities of “ganja” (marijuana). The previous policeman and intelligence agent underneath the brutal Moi dictatorship-turned tutorial has attracted 4 p.c of would-be voters with guarantees to shorten the work week, droop the structure – arguing the UK is doing fantastic with out one – appoint eight prime ministers, and perform public hangings of the corrupt.

Many suspect him to be a state plant meant to attract votes away from Ruto and assist out the marketing campaign of Kenyatta’s former rival turned BFF, Raila Odinga, although the polls don’t bear this out – he appears to be interesting largely to the undecided. No matter his intentions, Wajackoyah’s populist message relating to the legalisation of marijuana ought to be taken significantly because it opens the door to a extra wise public dialogue of the nation’s largely borrowed coverage on medicine, which thus far has been dominated by Bible-and-Quran-thumping spiritual sorts.

Earlier efforts to have the dialogue round marijuana legalisation have gotten little traction. And whereas the variety of international locations within the area which have legalised the rising and export of hashish – estimated globally to be price about $70bn by 2028 – has elevated, solely 4 on your entire continent have okayed it for native medical use, not to mention leisure consumption. It’s ironic that Africa appears content material to export a product that relieves ache to the remainder of the world whereas denying it to Africans on the premise of outdated puritanical tropes imported from these very international locations.

It’s price remembering that the ban on marijuana and different psychotropic medicine didn’t originate on the continent. Worldwide drug management efforts might be traced again to the 1912 Hague Opium Conference that entered into drive in 1919 and focused opium, morphine, cocaine and heroin. Over the following half-century, a collection of worldwide agreements would broaden the scope of the anti-drugs effort to incorporate restrictions on hashish (1925), artificial narcotics (1948) and psychotropic substances (1971). Drug trafficking was made a world crime in 1936. Almost no Africans took half in these selections, as their international locations existed as European colonial possessions on the time.

Almost half had been nonetheless underneath colonial rule in March 1961 when the US initiated the United Nations Single Conference on Narcotic Medication, which sought to consolidate the assorted worldwide agreements into one regime governing the worldwide medicine commerce, requiring controls over the cultivation of crops from which narcotics are derived, institutionalising prohibition and targets for abolishing conventional and quasi-medical makes use of of opium, coca and hashish, and requiring international locations to control not simply manufacturing, manufacture and export, but additionally possession of medicine.

That is although crops like marijuana had been extensively farmed and smoked on the continent earlier than the catastrophe of colonisation. Having grown up in a strict, US-driven prohibitionist regime, many African regimes, together with Kenya’s, have little inkling of, and care even much less about, their historical past or the pursuits and wishes of their individuals, preferring to mouth the realized knowledge of US puritanism.

That is why Professor Wajackoyah, regardless of his antics and questionable motives, may very well be essential. Already some within the political firmament are paying attention to the help he’s attracting and speaking about decriminalising marijuana as a potent political challenge. That implies that, even after the election, there may very well be a chance to construct on the momentum he has generated and to widen the dialog to cowl all psychotropic medicine.

There may be one hazard although, and it’s important. If he had been to go too far together with his clowning, that might taint your entire argument for legalisation and switch it into one thing of a political joke. Relatively than take that threat, it is perhaps higher for extra wise heads in media and coverage circles to not wait until after the election however to begin increasing the dialog now and grounding it on a safer footing. That may guarantee Kenyans proceed discussing legalisation lengthy after Wajackoyah has grow to be a curious footnote within the historical past of the 2022 election.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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