ARUNGA: Don't just rage about harsh bhang laws, push to legalise the drug - Daily Nation

Laws on trafficking bhang are too harsh

Thursday May 24 2018

By ABIGAIL ARUNGA
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A few weeks ago, there was an uproar on social media because a young man, carrying Sh23,000 worth of marijuana in his bag, was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment. He pleaded guilty to trafficking narcotics, which basically sealed the deal for him, because that fine, according to our narcotics Act, is one million shillings plus life imprisonment.

What was going around on social media was this young man’s picture next to a picture of one of our corrupt officials – insert any name here, they are really too many to choose from, you're spoilt for options, if we are being quite honest – and the meme asked, basically, how our country can allow a young man to go to jail while everyone else who is corrupt gets nothing done to them, or a silly slap on the wrist that measures to about 0.1 per cent of all the money they actually stole.

WHAT THE LAW SAYS

Of course this is unfair. Of course it makes absolutely no sense that this should happen. How can marijuana get you life imprisonment, and stealing money from literally the mouths of babes get you the types of babes looking for that money?

It isn't the law that is unfair, necessarily. That is actually the law of the land. And who makes the law? The people, of course. Through who? Our representatives.

Here's what the law says, according to the 1994 Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act:

4. Penalty for trafficking in narcotic drugs, etc.
Any person who traffics in any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance or any substance represented or held out by him to be a narcotic drug or psychotropic substance shall be guilty of an offence and liable—
(a) in respect of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance to a fine of one million shillings or three times the market value of the narcotic drug or psychotropic substance, whichever is the greater, and, in addition, to imprisonment for life; or
(b) in respect of any substance, other than a narcotic drug or psychotropic substance, which he represents or holds out to be a narcotic drug or psychotropic substance to a fine of five hundred thousand shillings, and, in addition, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding twenty years.

Basically, after pleading guilty, he was screwed.

The reason the law is so harsh is that we chose to make it so. Weed is in the same class as other clearly more dangerous drugs, and the laws haven't been changed for this because Kenyans have not deemed it important enough.

Fortunately or unfortunately, in a majority supposedly democratic state, a large number of people have to be the ones bringing these requests and petitions to our legislature for change to take effect. The judges and the Judiciary as a whole only interpret the law as we have given them, to put it simplistically.

CHILLING THOUGHT

And, therefore, there may be pictures demonstrating the unfairness of this ruling, but until it gets off Twitter and into the corridors of power, so to speak, weed will remain illegal, with an incredibly exaggerated punishment, for as long as we let it.

You want to get it legalised? Get people talking about it in whatever locale you're in. Otherwise, it just remains a trending topic. The majority doesn't care about marijuana, and the majority doesn't particularly care about corruption either, because if it did, there would be more laws in place to stop it. It's a chilling thought.

Twitter: @AbigailArunga