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Bhang is illegal in Kenya but is widely trafficked across the country. CFM-FILE.

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Cannabis still illegal in Kenya despite new WHO action: NACADA

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 4 – The National Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) has warned that Cannabis is still illegal in Kenya despite recent action by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

WHO rescheduled the drug, by removing it from the strictest Schedule 4 of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

The new development comes at a time when the country is reviewing its narcotic laws by adopting more stringent measures, that if adopted will see drug traffickers fined up to Sh50 million.

NACADA Chief Executive Officer Victor Okioma on Thursday said that the WHO move is not binding to member states like Kenya.

“Though the move eases Member states access to Cannabis for medical and scientific purposes, it does not in any way legalize the use of cannabis for recreational purposes,” the CEO said in a statement.

He said Kenya did not support the move but instead, “advocated for the retention of the cannabis plant and cannabis resin in both Schedule 1 and 4 of the 1961 Convention.”

“The decision was based on the argument that having Cannabis plant and cannabis resin in both Schedule 1 and 4 of the 1961 Convention did not limit states’ access to the substance for medical and scientific purposes,” he said.

He said the multi-sectoral technical committee that participated in the rescheduling process under his leadership reported that “the vote to delete cannabis plant and cannabis resin from Schedule 1 and 4 of the 1961 convention is not an endorsement of recreational use of cannabis or a recognition that cannabis is less harmful. It only means that cannabis plant and resin have moved from a stricter schedule.”

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NACADA statement means Kenya will move forward to adopt more stringent measures in the proposed amendments.

The proposals, contained in the Narcotics, Drugs and psychotropic Substances (Control) Amendment Bill, 2020 also target law enforcement officers who collude with drug traffickers to defeat the cause of justice, manufacturers of substances used as raw material for drugs and users of illegal substances.

For instance, on drug traffickers, the proposed law sets down penalties commensurate with quantities nabbed.

People found in possession of more than 101 gm of the narcotics will receive the harshest penalties (Sh50million and life imprisonment), while those in possession of 51-100gm risking fines of not less than Sh30million and jail terms of not less than 20 years.

According to the bill, those found in possession of between 0.1-50gm will be subjected to fines of not less than Sh20 million, jail terms of not less than 15 years or both.

The current law proposes a fine of Sh1 million, or three times the market value of the drug or whichever is greater.

Under the proposed law, police officers, investigators and prevention officers who assist drug traffickers carry out their trade will be liable to fines of not less than Sh20million, imprisonment of terms of not less than 20 years or both upon conviction.

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