Kenya Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s son, Raila Odinga Jr., is calling for the legalization of medical cannabis—a plant that’s been demonized in his country for generations. Medical cannabis, Odinga says, could ease the suffering of Kenya’s people who suffer from HIV and other illnesses.
Interestingly, actual laws against cannabis in Kenya are only about twenty years old. “One of the taboo subjects in Kenya is marijuana, but it is the right time to push for this,” Odinga told Kiss FM Kenya. “It was made illegal in Kenya 1994, but before that it was legal. It was used back in the history as a pain reliever during childbirth, among other medicinal purposes. It can be used as a chronic pain reliever for cancer survivors, or a stimulant for appetites that does not need to be smoked. This is what we want to push.”
Odinga believes that medical cannabis could help abate Kenya’s enormous HIV epidemic. Over 300,000 people ages 24 or younger in Kenya are HIV-positive. Medical cannabis is reported to help with HIV-related inflammation, chronic pain and it may even help slow the progression of the HIV virus.
Beyond the Rastafarian movement in Kenya, a faction that believes the Promised Land is in Ethiopia, few other Kenyans consume cannabis. Kenyan Rastafarians already use it for medical and spiritual reasons. It’s most commonly referred to there as “bhang or “dagga.”
In September, Kibra MP Ken Okoth unveiled the Marijuana Control Bill 2018, which he plans on introducing to Kenya’s leadership shortly. The bill would legalize the cultivation of cannabis.
With South Africa recently legalizing cannabis for private use, Kenya can no longer ignore the elephant in the room. “If you look around the world—America, South Africa—they have legalized recreational marijuana, and they are now pushing it to marijuana farming,” Odinga added. “Cannabis sativa, which is an Indian variety of cannabis, can be used as a cash crop product to earn foreign exchange, which adds to the economy of Kenya.”