Rastafarians in Kenya files Petition to legalise marijuana
The Rastafari Society of Kenya has filed a case in court seeking to lift the law criminalising the use of marijuana.
In the petition, they argue that followers/believers of the Rastafari faith use bhang or 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.
They further argue that 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.
“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.
Through lawyer Shadrack Wambui and others, the Petitioner’s maintain that 10 years after the adoption of the Constitution of Kenya, the impugned section continues to exist in law without any justification and infringes on the rights of persons who profess and/or proclaim Rastafari beliefs.
They claim that the impugned provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances make meaningless the Rastafari right to associate with others for spiritual purposes as guaranteed in the Constitution.
“This, therefore, makes it criminal for rastas to assemble in prayer and partake the herb as a sacrament,” they argue.
They also want the court to suspend the arrest or prosecution of members who use cannabis for their spiritual and private growth.
They are blaming the Respondents for failing to ensure the Petitioner’s equality before the law of persons professing the Rastafari beliefs and ideologies in their private lives as required under international human rights law.
Among the orders that the society is seeking is a declaration that section 3 (1), (2), (a), and (3) (a-d) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act No. 4 Of 1994 is unconstitutional in as far as it discriminates the Rastafarian community on the basis of religion by criminalizing their spiritual growth and use of cannabis and treating them different from other mainstream religions, strips them of their dignity contrary to Article 27(4), and 28, of the Constitution.
They also want the court to issue a declaration that Section 3 (1), (2), (a), and (3) (a-d) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act No. 4 Of 1994 is unconstitutional to the extent that it violates or threatens to violate the members of the 1st petitioner’s/the petitioner’s rights and other people professing the Rastafari faith.