The Rastafari community in Kenya has moved to court seeking to lift the law criminalising the use of marijuana.
In a petition filed at the Milimani Courts in Nairobi, the Rastafari Society of Kenya (RSK) argues the law is unconstitutional and discriminatory against persons professing the Rastafari faith.
The Rastafarians note that they use cannabis by either smoking, drinking, eating, bathing and/or burning incense for spiritual, medicinal, culinary, and ceremonial purposes as a sacrament to manifest their faith.
Through lawyers Shadrack Wambui and Alexander Mwendwa, the petitioners claim they use cannabis to connect with their maker, Jah.
Mwendwa Wambua, spokesman and prophet of the society says the Rastafari faith use cannabis Sativa colloquially known as ‘bhang, marijuana, holy herb, kushungpeng, tire, ndom, vela, gode and kindukulu’ to meditate when in their private dwellings to connect with their God as evinced through holy verses and/or sacred texts in their Holy Bible “ Holy Piby”, Nebra Negas (Glory of Kings).
“The marijuana is usually used in a pipe (or “chalice”) or burned as incense that accompanies “Ises” praises to Jah and a short prayer is always recited and/or Chanted before it is used or burned as incense with the citation of prayers,” Wambua said.
Further, the Rastafari Society of Kenya claims Rastafarians are a marginalized group that is apolitical thus politically powerless, and often subjected to prejudice, intimidation, unwarranted searches of their persons and their homes, and prosecutions because of their spiritual use of cannabis in their private homes or designated places of worship yet the use of herb or cannabis is grounded in biblical redemption and deliverance.
They argue the impugned provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Control Act make meaningless the Rastafari right to associate with others for spiritual purposes as guaranteed in the Constitution.
“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 society, therefore, wants the court to quash section 3(2) (a) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Control Act.
“The impugned law which was enacted in the year 1994 is hostile and intolerant to persons professing the Rastafari faith yet we are in a new constitutional framework following the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 that is progressive and accommodative of diversity,” they argue.
The Rastafari Society of Kenya (RSK) also want the court to suspend the arrest or prosecution of members who use cannabis for their spiritual and private growth.