The Rastafarian Society of Kenya has filed a petition demanding the government decriminalize marijuana.
The society says members use marijuana as part of a spiritual process to connect with their “creator.”
“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,” the organization said in a statement issued by Shadrack Wambua.
Kenya’s Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act states that: “Any person who has in his possession any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance shall be guilty of an offence.” Those found in possession of marijuana face a prison sentence of up to eight years. Kenyans found in possession of marijuana with the intent to supply face 20 years behind bars.
Members of the society claim constant police harassment. They say they face persecution from police officers and even imprisonment of their members for privately growing and using cannabis.
Wambua says members only use marijuana in “meditation” and “reasoning sessions,” religious meetings.
“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.
The Rastafari faith started in Jamaica in the 1930s following the coronation of Haile Selassie I (“Might of the Trinity”) as King of Ethiopia. Selassie was crowned emperor in 1930 but was exiled during World War II after leading the resistance against the Italian invasion. He was reinstated in 1941 and ruled until 1974.
Rastafarians observe Haile Selassie as God of the Black race despite him never making such claims. The Rastafari cites Marcus Garvey’s prophecy as the reason. Garvey once prophesized, “Look to Africa where a Black king shall be crowned, he shall be the Redeemer.” Selassie rose to power soon after.
There are no official statistics on Rastafaris in Kenya. However, estimates put the global figure at approximately one million.