Members of the Rastafarian community in Kenya have moved to court seeking to have marijuana (bhang) legalized.
In a petition filed at the Millimani Law Courts on Monday, the community represented by, among others, lawyer Shadrack Wambui argue that believers of the Rastafari faith use the substance by either smoking, drinking, eating, bathing and/or burning of incense for spiritual, medicinal, culinary and ceremonial purposes as sacrament to manifest their faith.
By criminalizing bhang, the petitioners argue, the government discriminates against the marginalized group.
According to the petitioners, the Rastafari members continue to face intimidation and arbitrary arrests for using marijuana in their private homes or designated places of worship yet the use of herb or cannabis is grounded in “biblical redemption and deliverance”.
“It is the Petitioner’s contention that the impugned section clearly show differential treatment on the basis of Religion and privacy perpetuates the culture, stigma and discrimination against the 1st petitioners’ followers through the continued use of archaic laws that violate the rights of the 1st petitioners’ members,” reads the court documents.
The petitioners argue that 10 years after the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution sections criminalizing the “herb” continue to exist in law without any justification and infringes on the rights of persons who profess and/or proclaim Rastafari beliefs.
According to them, the impugned provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances make meaningless the Rastafari right to associate with others for spiritual purposes as guaranteed in the Constitution.
“This, therefore, makes it criminal for rastas to assemble in prayer and partake the herb as a sacrament,” the petitioners argue.
Over the recent past, there have been calls from a section of Kenyans including lawmakers to have Kenya legalize marijuana for medicinal use.
Narok Senator Ledama Olekina and late Kibra MP Ken Okoth are among lawmakers who are on record calling for the legalization of the substance.