Narok Senator Ledama Olekina revived his calls for marijuana decriminalization in Kenya saying it’s high time the country had a serious conversation about the economic benefits of legalizing the plant.

Speaking on Spice FM Wednesday, the senator presumed that a significant number of Kenyan lawmakers smoke marijuana.

“Let me not kid you. Right now, in parliament, probably 80 percent of the lawmakers smoke marijuana,” Lekina said.

The senator was speaking alongside researcher Gwada Ogot, who in 2017 presented a petition before the Senate’s Health Committee calling for the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana in Kenya.

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The pair challenged the stereotype associated with Marijuana saying the plant might be the pot of gold that could save the country.

“There are indeed so many benefits and I think it’s just about the time we become more liberal to look at how is it we can survive. We are only poor because we believe certain things are immoral,” said Senator Olekina, adding:“We need to understand what benefits medical marijuana has. If indeed this country can legalize hemp, we could help reduce our debt.”

Ogot added: “Marijuana is the world’s most profitable crop. It can transform our national economy. It’s able to sort the doctors’ and the teachers’ salaries. Marijuana is the only basis for a universal healthcare program. It’s the basis of Africa’s pharmaceutical industry.”

Noting that marijuana was legal in Kenya before it was banned in 1914 during the British colonial period, Ogot said Kenyans and Africans did not choose to decriminalize it.

“Everything that we are talking about based on marijuana was delivered to us from the West and through United Nations conventions. There is no single Kenyan community that has gone to any authority and said ban marijuana. It is upon us to start making decisions independently rather than relying on the west to direct how we even use the drug that grows in our back yard,” said the researcher.

When asked why leaders have remained silent on the topic, Olekina said: “For now, they cannot do that because we politicians are hypocrites, we want to tell the church that we are saints. You know the church controls this country. If you go against the church, you will not get votes. So, we cannot be able to come out openly.”

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On the scientifically unsubstantiated claims that marijuana is addictive, senator OleKina said: “I hear there is a lot of people saying this; there is addiction. There is alcohol addiction, there is an addiction to smoking, nicotine addiction. It’s really what you do with it and how you control it. Too much of anything is poisonous… even a painkiller, if you are addicted to a painkiller it will harm your body… we should not be stuck in the old thinking.”

“We need to able to ensure we educate the legislators on the importance of this subject. Once they are educated, let’s get the buy-in. it is like dealing with the issue of politics, you have to get the political goodwill.”

Gwada Ogot (far right) when he appeared before The Senate Health Committee in 2017 to defend his petition to legalize marijuana

According to Gwada, Kenyans have sufficient knowledge and capability to decide how they can grow and regulate marijuana instead of following laws made by colonisers.

“All the rules and regulations regarding marijuana, none of them has a local origin. Not Kenyan, not African, they are all from Europe. It is in their interest that marijuana is banned across the world so that they exploit maximum profit from it,” he said.

“Marijuana will impact every single industry and every single sector in this country and most importantly marijuana can bring us more income than coffee, cotton, pyrethrum put together. Instead of causing a rural to urban migration, the legalisation of marijuana will instead have an urban to rural migration that will decongest and ease life in the cities but at the same time uplift the levels of rural lives because there will be sustainable income through marijuana at the local level.”