THE BHANG DEBATE

Health ministry should do medical marijuana trials

Trials should be conducted for treatment with medical marijuana in Kenya

In Summary

• Evidence shows that marijuana can reduce nausea and provide pain relief

• Okoth submitted a Bill to decriminalise marijuana to the National Asembly in 2018

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko during the 4th session of the United Nations Environment Assembly in Gigiri on March 14, 2019
SOnko Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko during the 4th session of the United Nations Environment Assembly in Gigiri on March 14, 2019
Image: COURTESY

It's tempting sometimes to dismiss Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko's utterances as eccentric or playing to the crowd. Yet he had a point on Thursday when he suggested legalising medical bhang at the funeral service for Kibra MP Ken Okoth.

Okoth tabled the Marijuana  Control Bill in 2018 to decriminalise marijuana. Sonko suggested that now was the time to continue Okoth's work and legalise medical marijuana to treat cancer and protect the health of the masses.

We should be clear here. Marijuana will not protect against cancer or cure cancer. However, it can provide pain relief and reduce nausea. 

The authoritative Mayo Clinic website states that evidence has shown that marijuana can effectively treat chemotherapy-induced nausea. It can also help with spasticity related to multiple sclerosis and reduce the intensity of neuropathic pain.

But the Mayo Clinic still cautions that "marijuana use can cause cognitive impairment" and can exacerbate mental conditions. In other words, bhang does mess up your head, even if it can help with medical treatment.

Okoth wanted to decriminalise marijuana completely. Probably bhang is no worse than alcohol (which is addictive and also interferes with thought processes). Let's leave that argument for another day.

But the Ministry of Health should seriously consider trials for medical marijuana in Kenya, particularly to reduce nausea in chemotherapy.

Quote of the day: If charity begins at home, empire begins in other men's homes.” 

Roger Casement
The Irish revolutionary was executed on 3 August, 1916