The Rastafarian community in Kenya has filed a petition at the Milimani Law Courts seeking to have marijuana legalised.
They argued the ban on Marijuana use in the country has limited them on a number of religious beliefs to manifest their faith.
In a petition, the community argued that the religion uses bhang for smoking, bathing or even burning of incense for spiritual and medicinal ceremonial purposes.
“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.
They added in the petition that the Rastafarian religion is a marginalised group, which has been subjected to intimidation and bias by police forces with unwarranted scrutiny of their homesteads for their use of marijuana.
Through their lawyers, Shadrack Wambui and Alexander Mwendwa, they maintained that 10 years after the adoption of the Constitution of Kenya, 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.
“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 said through Lawyer Shadrack Wambui.
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 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.