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Legalising cannabis could plunge country into social chaos – expert

The argument on cannabis being less addictive than other drugs should not override the discussion on whether or not it should be legalised, Shilabukha said/JEREMIAH WAKAYA

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 10 – Legalising cannabis in the country could present a major regulatory challenge and lead to an upsurge in demand.

Dr Khamati Shilabukha, a research fellow at the University of Nairobi Institute of Anthropology, Gender and African Studies argues that the consumption of marijuana could increase drastically if the push for its decriminalization sails through.

“When something is illegal it means that service or commodity is in short supply so the consumption is usually underground and the price is usually very high,” Shilabukha said.

“That then means if we legalize, the consumption will go overboard and therefore the price will go down and even those who are consuming it covertly will have a chance of consuming it openly,” he added.

Shilabukha told Capital FM News Monday that the effects of cannabis also pose a danger to the society given that people who indulge in it have a tendency of exhibiting dramatic behaviour.

He said that there is need for more research into cannabis so that if decriminalized, the laws controlling its use are able to guard against misuse.

“The effects of cannabis are dramatic much as they may be less compared to tobacco. Their dramatic nature poses a danger to the social fabric,” he noted.

According to a National Survey on Alcohol and Drug Abuse conducted by the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) in 2012, cannabis is the third most used drug with 1.2 per cent of Kenyans said to be using it on overall against the global average of 2.5 per cent (147 million people).

Although the study indicated that 13.3 per cent of Kenyans use alcohol and another 9.1 per cent tobacco, marijuana emerged top on the list of the most easily available illicit drug in the country at 49 per cent according to the anti-drug abuse agency.

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Shilabukha expressed concern that the increasing prevalence of cannabis use among youths and particularly students in tertiary institutions could mean that the ability to acquire knowledge among university students is hampered.

“The use of this substance has different effects. Some students who use this (cannabis) may be irritated some may be excited, some may panic other may actually became dull,” he said.

He however observed that it may be difficult to establish the impact of drug abuse among university students in the absence of scientific survey among the student population.

“It is hard to ascertain the impact of bhang among students. We need to ask ourselves why students go to the streets but you can really attribute that behaviour to cannabis,” Shilabukha.

The argument on cannabis being less addictive than other drugs should not override the discussion on whether or not it should be legalised, Shilabukha said.

“Our society tends to seek easy solutions without doing an in-depth study into some of these issues. How many people have done research on cannabis – countless people. But how many have looked into such studies?,” he posed.

He pointed out that regulatory frameworks around the use of cannabis need to be water-tight to ensure that the bio-medicine value is not lost due to misuse.

“The use of cannabis varies across culture and therefore I cannot say we legalise or not. That can only be done if we interrogate biomedical issues, socio-cultural issues, the economic issues and intellectual issue around the drug then we can say we legalise it or not.”

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