Cannabis in Kenya


  • Samson Ndanyi Rhodes College, United States



Cannabis, Ganja, Kenya, Britain, Colonial, Prohibition


In 2018, Kenneth Okoth, a member of Parliament for the Kibra Constituency in Kenya, introduced a Marijuana Control Bill in parliament. Okoth’s bill sought to legalise the growth and use of cannabis, establish a system for the registration and licensing of cannabis growers and users, promote the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, and increase public awareness of cannabis. This last point is critical in that Okoth understood that public knowledge of cannabis was shallow at the very moment when the country was debating prohibition, and he considered public awareness a critical component of this debate. Undoubtedly, the shallowness stems from a dearth of scholarship on cannabis in Kenya and East Africa. This study attempts to close the gap on the historiography of cannabis in Kenya. It historicises cannabis before the country’s independence in 1963, revealing that the British colonial government sanctioned cannabis for medicinal use but prohibited it for recreational purposes among Africans. The essay grounds the history of cannabis in Kenya within a longer history of making and re-making citizens and contributes to a more complex understanding of how bodies, goods, and ideas move across time and space.


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How to Cite

Ndanyi, S. (2021). Cannabis in Kenya. Southern Journal for Contemporary History, 46(2), 4-23.




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