Health question as push to legalise bhang gains speed

Regular cannabis users can develop dependence on the drug. FILE PHOTO | NMG Calls for Kenya to legalise bhang have been growing and the recent announcement by US company, Bangi Inc, that it plans to crosslist on the Nairobi Securities Exchange, looks set to put to test the country’s resolve to continue putting the drug among banned substances.

Cannabis, as bhang is called in part by its scientific name has gained has recently gained support in the high corridors of Parliament with some MPs pushing for it to be legalised to allow for its trade.

The late Kibra MP Ken Okoth split opinions mid this year when he said he was working on a draft bill to change the legal status of the drug.

The campaign comes even as a United Nations report shows that bhang is responsible for more than half of the people undergoing drug abuse treatment in Africa, raising concerns that if the legislators have their way the situation will move from bad to worse.

“In most countries, cannabis is the most widely used drug, both among the general population and young people, and most people in drug treatment in Africa, the Americas and Oceania are being treated for cannabis use,” the UN report points out.

The report, which is based on data from 130 countries globally, suggests that 192.2 million people aged 15-64 used cannabis at least once in 2016, this is equivalent to 3.9 percent of the population in this age range.

Cannabis use among young people aged 15-16 years stood at 13.8 million, representing 5.6 percent of the population in this age range.

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Locally the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse puts this consumption at about 0.8 percent of Kenyans aged 15-65 years, noting that most have health disorders arising from cannabis use.

According to the World health Organisation the most obvious short-term health effect of cannabis is intoxication marked by disturbances in the level of consciousness, cognition, perception, affect or behaviour, and other psychophysiological functions and responses.

“First-time cannabis users become very anxious, have panic attacks, experience hallucinations and vomit. These symptoms may be sufficiently distressing to prompt affected users to seek medical care,’’ says WHO.Regular cannabis users can develop dependence on the drug. The risk may be around 1 in 10 among those who ever use cannabis, 1 in 6 among adolescent users, and 1 […]

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