Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony has joined the push to legalise the use marijuana for medical purposes.
The second term governor, who holds a doctorate degree in organic chemistry, believes that bhang has medicinal value and should be used in a regulated environment.
"We should regularise it (marijuana) but under very strict supervision. So many people are having excruciating pain and whenever you want a remedy, it is said it is illegal," he said today.
The governor was speaking during the seventh Devolution Conference at Wote Town in Makueni County on Saturday. Zimbabwe and Uganda have joined a growing list of countries which have legalised the use of the narcotic.
The forum heard that indigenous knowledge has widespread applications in health, food systems and the economy.
Dr Lydia Matoke, the president of the Herbalists Society of Kenya, said the Covid-19 pandemic pointed at untapped the value of herbal medicine. During the session, Mr Lelekoiten Lerenten, the deputy director at the climate change directorate at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry encouraged farmers to keep indigenous species of crops and livestock.
He said indigenous species produce less greenhouse gases and are resilient to the adverse effects of climate change. Prof Chepkwony said Kenya could unlock billions of shillings by tapping on herbal medicine.
Participants at the forum decried lack of political commitment as the main barrier in exploiting indigenous assets.
Dr Evans Tabacha, the coordinator at the Natural Products Industry Initiative Programme at the National Museums of Kenya, noted that although Kenya has amended the Health Act (2017) to accommodate traditional and alternative medicine, nothing much has been done in the area four years down the line.
He blamed legislators for the failure to formulate policies that recognise traditional and alternative medicine.
"The reason we don't have any herbal medicine being dispensed in the hospitals is that traditional medicine practice is still considered as part of people's culture. There is no policy right now much as it has been mentioned in the Health Act (2017) that has been put in place or any legal framework that would allow any herbal medicine to be part of conventional medicine practice. The senators should know that this is long overdue. We have made attempts. However this has not stopped us from studying herbal medicine," said Dr Esther Matu, the acting deputy director at the Kenya Medicinal Research Institute.
"We have screened so many plants and we have evidence to show that they are anti-microbial and have antidiabetic effects but are not able to take them to the market at this point," she added.