The supply chain of weed equals, if not eclipses, that of Coca Cola products. You’re bound to find a kiosk with a coca cola sign in the remotest village in Kenya. Likewise, it’s easy to know a guy that could either hook you up or knows a guy that know a guy. And so on and so forth.
As it stands, weed cultivation, distribution and possession result in hefty fines and long sentences; ten to twenty years or life. However, copious amounts of well brewed tea served to the right people perform miracles. Some say Kenya’s chai gives the blond blue eyed bachelor from Nazareth a run for his money.
LEGALISTION AND DECRIMINALISATION
There are calls for the legalisation of weed; removing all legal prohibitions. Or decriminalizing which means it will still be illegal but possession under a specified amount would not attract prosecution. Instead, penalties will be leveled.
The most significant effort was the bill brought to Parliament by the late progressive parliamentarian; Ken Okoth. Some petitions have also gained momentum. Let me tell you about a comical one:
Two questionable researchers attempted to prove that the reason Jamaicans bolt (pun intended) so fast is because of their consumption of weed. For sure, their attempt to join the dots were sketchy at the very least. Nonetheless, their title, Weed for Speed, took the pun title home.
Both legalisation and decriminalization are non-issues. Why? With or without them, I reckon consumption will remain the same. Similarly, societal attitudes for or against it will be constant. Use of weed is already rampant in Kenya and entrenched in culture across several generations. Nothing can change these.
As the Tharaka Nithi demographic of weed consumers say; ‘utamu wa bhangi ni kuvuta kama umejificha’.
COMMERCIALISATION AND THE SCIENCE
With widespread legalization abroad, the spotlight has been on Africa for a while. South Africa gave a nod to recreational use of weed. Uganda and Rwanda are already changing laws and signing deals for the production of various strains of cannabis sativa for export. It seems that is where the money is at. Where is Kenya?
Commercialization of weed is the real deal. The business side. All in all, the basic principle of demand and supply has a ripple effect. And this is where the science comes in.
Cannabis sativa contains multiple compounds; more than 120 cannabinoids. The effects of many of these are unknown. However, those of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol are well known. The latter gives you the high while the latter lets you down. In addition, CBD is medicinal.
With commercialization, genetic modifications aimed at creating a repeat customer seem highly possible. For instance, a modified strain with higher CBD to THC ratio would ensure one stays high for long but doesn’t come down fast. Consequently, they become dependent and are likely to be back for me. I believe big pharmaceuticals will go down this lane.
Don’t believe me? Peddlers are already lacing weed with cocaine or petrol to accelerate dependency. Therefore, what do you think a profit driven commercial enterprise would do to satisfy the need for repeat clientele in a cut-throat environment? Your guess is as good as mine.
Chasing the high while they chase a repeat customer.
Case in point, traditionally used tobacco (snuff or smoked in pipes) does not have adverse health effects. Then in came cigarettes modified by big players to maximize sales. In the end, addicts with charred livers. Meanwhile, gogos snuffing tumbaku are pushing ninety with nothing but the usual aching bones of old age.
Commercialization of weed might be opening Pandora’s Box. Maybe we should keep it organic and small scale. Otherwise, Peter tosh’s ‘Legalize it’ might come to bite us in the ass. A big nasty messy bite. And we all know matako haiponangi na ulimi haishonwi (Matuko Weye; circa 1989)
The thorns to what seems like a rosy harmless affair (Hollywood and the middle class) strike those without means. Judicial statistics point to youth from informal statements as the majority of marijuana related convicts. The sentences are stiff, ten to twenty years for possession of just a few joints.
Those that are well to do go largely unscathed. If they go about it smartly, that is.
I mean, the highness ascends to the peak of our executive. It then descends to the hallowed lavatories of Parliament. Alas, the high and mighty!
Therefore, it makes no sense for a widely used substance to be a tool for harassment of the poor. Moreover, the tail end of the supply chain; small time peddlers are then used by law enforcers to show they are working. The crime is to be poor and ill-connected.
One afternoon in August 2017, I am headed to a music festival. a tall guy in a baseball cap hails me. I walk on, suspicious as usual. He catches up and introduced himself as a police officer.
Najua umebeba bangi.
For sure sijabeba chochote.
Sina unless mtu ameniwekea.
Basi allow me to search you. He said directing me to an alley.
Realizing that things were getting thick, I asked him for proof that he was who he claimed to be. To my surprise, he calmly and willingly produce a CID identification card. It seemed legit.
Na wewe yako?
I produced my student ID. And just like that, we were on first name basis.
Haiya, twende basi ni kusearch.
I refused to move, insisting that the search be conducted right there. There was a roadside seller within earshot. I figured nothing could be planted on me with a witness in sight.
The corporal turned my bag inside out, examined and sniffed my hands. He carefully felt the hems of my jeans and seams of my t-shirt . My new friend came up short.
Haya, toa viatu na socks!
Still nothing. He sighed in disappointment and gave me back my ID.
Najua uko nayo lakini sijui umeficha wapi.
With those words he walked away. I gave a sigh of relief and walked on. There are so many ways incident could have played out differently. Thankfully, no one at the Universe control room felt the need to be as creative and as dramatic as a class eight student aiming for 40 in composition writing.
The good officer and I ran into each twice more that year (small town shenanigans). On both occasions, he asked whether I had quit my ways. He laughed. I laughed. My laugh was nervous.
What are your thoughts? Experiences?
PS: A couple were arrested with joints in their possession. Police say the couple had joint custody of Mary Jane.