What you need to know:
- Through lawyer Shadrack Wambui, the society argues that the insensitivity and unconstitutionality of the law is demonstrated by intolerance to the use of bhang by persons professing the Rastafari faith.
A rare case has been filed at the High Court by Prophet Mwendwa Wambua and the Ras Tafari Society of Kenya (RSK), seeking orders for the country to legalise use of marijunana for religious purposes.
The group of Rastafarians is also seeking to block the arrest and prosecution of its members over use of the substance known as cannabis sativa, or more popularly as bhang. It is also referred to as ndom, vela, kushungpeng.
RSK wants the High Court to suspend sections 3 (1)(2)(a) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act.
The Rastafarians argue the law enacted in 1994 is hostile and intolerant to persons professing the Rastafari faith, yet the Constitution is a progressive and accommodative document that protects marginalised groups, such as theirs.
“The use of cannabis, especially among members of RSK and any other person professing the Rastafari faith, is outlawed by dint of the said section, thus criminalising the Rastas' spiritual use of cannabis, yet the manifestation of their religion enjoys constitutional protection,” the petition states.
"We are in a new constitutional framework following promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, which is progressive and accommodative of diversity, and protective of marginalised groups, which include members of RSK.”
The group also says its members require spiritual growth and use of marijuana, which they say is used as a sacrament and for connection of the Rasta and his creator.
It alleges that the police continue to harass, intimidate, arrest and cause the prosecution, persecution and even imprisonment of Rastafarians for privately growing and using marijuana for the sole purpose of connecting with the creator.
“Members of RSK are forced to live in fear as a minority religious group in Kenya as the current legislative framework is inimical to their religious practices, as it fails to reasonably accommodate the Rastafari use of marijuana as a manifestation of their faith and for their connectedness with the almighty creator,” the petition states.
On his part, Mr Wambua, alias Ras Prophet, urged the High Court to legalise use of the substance as the sacrament during their services, noting it can be for both spiritual and medicinal purposes.
The petitioners want the case certified as urgent since it raises substantial questions of law.
The group wants the court to issue orders stopping the arrest and prosecution of its members for growing cannabis sativa for spiritual use in their homes or designated places of worship such as Rasta tabernacles and mansions.
“I am urging the court to recognise the use of marijuana and bhang as an instrument for worship connecting members of RSK with their creator,” lawyer Shadrack Wambui, for the petitioners, says in the pleadings filed in court.
The society argues that the insensitivity and unconstitutionality of the law is demonstrated by intolerance to the use of bhang by persons professing the Rastafari faith.
It further says the petition raises substantial questions of law and that the matter should be referred to the Chief Justice for appointment of a bench of judges of an uneven number to hear the case.