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Exercise caution in bid to legalise marijuana

Last week, Kibra MP Ken Okoth wrote to the National Assembly Speaker seeking facilitation in preparing a bill to legalise use of marijuana.

The MP wants to introduce what he terms the Marijuana Control Bill which will decriminalise the use of the stimulant on grounds that its alleged medical potential is not fully exploited.

The proposed bill advocates the growth and safe use of the illegal drug. Such a legislative agenda must be approached with caution, given that hundreds of youth are hooked onto the drug with unflattering consequencies.

Some researchers have argued that cannabis has medicinal value and is, therefore, safe for consumption. But what are its downsides? What does the legislation portend for Kenya?

Answers to these questions only come after a dispassionate and cautious discourse not because of the “we too” mentality.

It is an open secret that students in many education institutions and many jobless Kenyans continue to illegally access bhang and other drugs with disastrous results. To many families, the adverse effects of marijuana on the youth is not a matter of conjecture.

Therefore, to make such a drug easily available would be a dangerous path to tread. Last week, South Africa became the third African country to legalise marijuana after Lesotho and Zimbabwe. The drug is also legal in some states in America. But Kenya must follow other countries blindly. Kenya is grappling with various priority challenges and legalising marijuana would only add onto existing problems.

Much more work ought to be done to design a structured legal framework to regulate cannabis. There is also an issue of protecting minors. Countries that have legalised the drug are already dealing with scores of after-effects, including health complications sometimes even passed onto unborn babies by their hooked mothers.

If we go the marijuana way, there is need for research to determine precisely what benefits we will derive from this drug. It is also crucial to determine if the potential benefits being touted by its advocates cannot be obtained from other sources.

Legalisation of the drug is a path that is fraught with pitfalls and risks that will be hard to undo once the damage is done.

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