Cannabis in Kenya – Laws, Use, and History

Using or selling cannabis (‘bhang’) is illegal in Kenya. Due to its geographic location, the trafficking of cannabis is hard to police, and as a result, there’s a large domestic market for the substance. Growing pressure from petitions may also mean that the Kenyan government review their current laws, and cannabis may be decriminalised in the future.

    • Capital
    • Nairobi
    • Population
    • 53,492,000
    • CBD Products
    • Illegal
    • Recreational cannabis
    • Illegal
    • Medicinal cannabis
    • Illegal

Cannabis laws in Kenya

Can you possess and use cannabis in Kenya?

Kenya’s Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act states that: “Any person who has in his possession any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance shall be guilty of an offence.” This includes cannabis.

According to the law, if the court decides that the offender only had cannabis for their own personal use, they may be given a prison sentence of ten years. Although this seems harsh, it is considerably less than the punishment for other illegal drugs, which incur a prison sentence of twenty years to life.

In reality, you’re more likely to receive an on-the-spot fine, which, due to the levels of corruption in the country, may end up being pocketed by the arresting officers.

Can you sell cannabis in Kenya?

As you might imagine, selling cannabis in Kenya is also illegal. If the court decides that the amount of cannabis you have in your possession is for supply (rather than personal use), you could be subject to a prison sentence of 20 years to life.

You could also be given a fine of one million shillings or “three times the market value” of the cannabis, whichever is larger.

Can you grow cannabis in Kenya?

Growing cannabis is illegal too. It’s against the law to cultivate it, and you must not allow others to cultivate it on your land or in your property. If the police find that you’re involved in cannabis cultivation, you could be liable to a fine of 250,000 shillings or three times the market value of the cannabis, whichever is greater. Alternatively, you may be given a prison sentence (up to 20 years) or both.

If you own the land that the cannabis was grown on, the ownership of the land is forfeited to the government.

Is CBD legal in Kenya?

CBD is currently listed as an illegal drug in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act. This is irrespective of its levels of THC (the substance responsible for providing the ‘high’). As such, it’s illegal to buy or sell it in the country.

Can cannabis seeds be sent to Kenya?

It is illegal to buy or sell cannabis seeds to Kenya. This means that you can’t have them sent into the country via the mail.

Medicinal cannabis in Kenya

At the time of writing, the law regarding medicinal cannabis states:

“A medical practitioner or dentist shall not— (a) prescribe for, administer, sell or supply to, any person any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance; or (b) sign any prescription or order for the supply of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance to any person, unless the narcotic drug or psychotropic substance is required for the medical or dental treatment of the person.”

The laws could be about to change, though. In 2018, Kibra MP Ken Okoth gave notice of the introduction of the Marijuana Bill in the National Assembly. This bill seeks to decriminalise cannabis and permit its medical use.

Okoth is not alone. Gwada Ogot and Simon Mwaura, two researchers, are also petitioning Parliament to make cannabis use legal. They were opposed by Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr, who acknowledged its “medicinal benefits” but called into question Ogot and Mwaura’s credentials. “If the lobbyists were doctors or pharmacists,” he stated, “a good argument could be made.”

In spite of this, both researchers are keen to keep applying pressure on the government. They have already managed to isolate the ‘high’-providing component (THC) in the cannabis plant, which leaves the medicinal properties intact.

Mwaura describes it as a “castrated bull, which is good for fattening and produces the best meat.” He recommends permitting farmers to grow a minimum of one acre of the THC-free cannabis, to be used for medical purposes and food supplements.

Industrial hemp in Kenya

Hemp production is illegal in Kenya, though many activists are calling for the law to be changed.

Environmentalists highlight the damage that deforestation has caused, not to mention the impact of mathange, a plant that damages livestock and humans. They state that hemp is a sustainable alternative to wood-based products, and it grows in around five to seven months (far more quickly than mathenge, which takes three to four years). Unlike some other plants, hemp also breaks down harmful metals in the soil, and consumes large amounts of carbon dioxide.

Whether the government will act on their advice remains to be seen.

Good to know

If you are travelling to Kenya (or are a resident there), you may be interested to know the following:

Cannabis history

Cannabis has been grown in Kenya for centuries and was valued not only for its practical and medical benefits, but in religious ritual too.

The Luo people of western Kenya (who the Obama family are related to) traditionally smoked cannabis from hollowed-out gourds, as a way of communicating with their ancestors. They believed that the spirits of their ancestors protected their cannabis plantations.

It was also common practice for many Kenyan households to have a small amount of cannabis on hand at all times, for ritual and medicinal purposes.

What’s cannabis like in Kenya?

It is not known how many landrace cannabis varieties grow in Kenya, as the Kenyans do not have an export market. Some enthusiasts, however, have obtained seeds from the country and developed commercial strains from them. One commercial strain is Kilimanjaro, which was developed from the plants growing on the eastern foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro.

The majority of the landrace cannabis plants in Kenya are pure sativa and produce speedy, almost psychedelic highs. The main cultivation zones include the central highlands around Mount Kenya, the basin of Lake Victoria, and the coastal areas. Around 1,500 hectares is devoted to growing it.

Although there is a small domestic market, most of the cannabis in Kenya is imported from Tanzania and Uganda.

Korogocho – Nairobi’s black-market cannabis

The law states that owning even small amounts of cannabis a crime, let alone supplying significant amounts to others. Despite this, there is a thriving illegal cannabis market in Nairobi, the country’s capital.

At Korogocho, bags of cannabis are hidden amongst farm produce to prevent detection. Most of this cannabis, or bhang, as the locals call it, has been smuggled in from Tanzania, or even as far away as Ethiopia.

Some people also grow cannabis, in spite of the risks. In a slum in Upper Savanna, for example, people grow it in between sugarcane and tall grass, which serves to conceal it.

Gladi, one of the dealers, sells bhang to boost her current earnings. “I get my stash from Koch (Korogocho) at 200 shillings per kilo and 100 shillings per stone,” she tells Nairobi News. “A kilo can roll up to 50 slims.”

It takes her about 30 seconds to roll a slim, which she then sells for between 10 and 20 shillings. Most of her clients are teenagers and young adults from middle-class families.

Attitudes in Kenya

When it comes to people’s attitudes about cannabis, opinions are divided. Some want the government to adopt South Africa’s stance and legalise cannabis for recreational use, and others are concerned about the perceived health risks.

Even Kenya’s celebrities have entered the debate. Kush Tracey, a well-known hitmaker in the country, acknowledges how many people already smoke it, but said: “my only concern is whether there can be control once it is legalised.”

Kenrazy, a musician, commented: “I have nothing against its legalisation, in fact, it is long overdue. It will create employment for farmers, but I know the biggest challenge will be voting for its legislation from our hypocritical leaders who will preach water and drink wine.”

Modern usage

In the 21st century in Kenya, cannabis is most frequently used by teenagers and young adults. Its links with ‘youth culture’ started in the 1980s. To work around cultural taboos, young people talked about cannabis in jargon, to ensure their parents didn’t understand what they were discussing. This is when the slang lingo that’s used today was first introduced, such as ngwai, godey, kush and ndom.

Despite its common usage in the country, Kenyan authorities are still keen to push the message that cannabis is a dangerous ‘gateway drug’ that should be restricted.

Will it be legalised in the future?

The high-profile petitions, not to mention Ken Okoth’s proposed Marijuana Bill, suggests that changes may be underway in Kenya. The 2018 decriminalisation of cannabis in South Africa is likely to have had some impact, and growing public pressure may also convince the Kenyan government to take action.

However, while it seems likely that medicinal cannabis will be permitted eventually, it may take longer to address the negative perceptions surrounding its recreational use. Only time will tell if the petitions are successful or not.

  • Disclaimer:
    While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended to provide legal advice, as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

Comments

58 thoughts on “Cannabis in Kenya – Laws, Use, and History”

  1. African Herbman🍁

    Bomboclat…utamu wa ngwai ni kuiva kijango ukijua unaezanaswa hata hivo we dont need anyone to approve weed for us..babylon shall fall eventually

  2. I have had the opportunity of growing really nice sensi from the seeds I’ve collected from across the border.
    It should be decriminalised

  3. Ninakuja kusafiri kwenda Nairobi kutoka Uingereza mnamo Oktoba 2020 na ninahitaji maelezo fulani jijini Nairobi ikiwa wataalam wowote hapa wanaweza kusaidia?

  4. I’m arriving travelling to Nairobi from the UK in October 2020 and need some info on Nairobi if any experts on here can help out?

  5. Papah smasha

    Napenda kithuke vile napenda life yangu.rieng n zangu zibundi.rasta man watagwan

  6. This is a great post Maurice especially where you highlighted the Narcotics Control Act. Well, nowadays there’s a large shift towards higher end strains especially from Ethiopia and South Africa. Also, weed edibles are becoming mainstream in house parties all over Kenya.

  7. Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania, not in Kenya. The best weed in East Africa, comes from Arusha, Tanzania.

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Jumamosi,

      Thanks for your comment. Mount Kilimanjaro is indeed in Tanzania, as stated in the article; I think perhaps you misread this sentence: “Kilimanjaro is one such strain, originating from the eastern foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro, which is itself close to the Kenyan border in Tanzania.”? I agree that it could be clearer, and so have edited it to avoid further confusion. Thanks for pointing this out, and I hope you continue to enjoy the blog.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  8. am a huge ganja lover bt i have a feeling that legalising it may make its quality to be low..they might even start adding tobbaco to it therefore ruining its quality…just my thoughts though

  9. only bud@nasera

    its about time the Kenyan government realise the benefits of marijuana,,,the economy could realy be stable,,,if you take a look at the states that has legalised weed,,their economy stats are pleasin.They are earning billions of dollars$p year…lets free the herb and make our farmers rich,,LEGALISE MARIJUANA FOR MEDICINAL AND RECREATIONAL USE IN “KENYA”!!—-signin out with a big splif in ma mouth—

    1. Economy stabilty that’s a joke yeah jobs will be created n taxation will help improve the government but more will be used on rehabilitation I mean take a look at a state like Colorado most teens have already fallen into addiction, its sad right let’s not do something because other people are doing it the proof is right in front of our eyes

      1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

        Hi there,

        Actually, the rate of drug abuse and misuse has fallen in states that have legalised cannabis, as can be seen in this report from the CDC. From the report’s conclusion:

        ‘…this research suggests that a precipitous national decline in adolescent treatment admissions, particularly in states legalizing recreational marijuana use, is occurring simultaneously with a period of increasing permissiveness, decreasing perception of harm, and increasing adult use, regarding marijuana.’

        With best wishes,

        Scarlet

  10. George Cure Oils

    Why not? Lets legalize this thing. Kibra Mp Kenneth Okoth bill is before Kenyan parliament, Let do it.

    We need to have cannabis dispensaries and herbalists(places & people who understand the herb can dispense information). We also need to invest in research and human trials on the healing power it possesses. In order to have this happening we need to create a passionate community of people who believe and understand cannabis; a team of doctors, legislators, lawyers, Herbalists(People who deal weed), farmers who grow it , then people like you & me who want to see it through.

  11. Willys Tiany

    There’s this debate going on about legalizing marijuana in Kenya. But experts say best way to consume it is by eating. Waiting to see how all this turns out.

  12. I was born, raised and currently earning my living in Nairobi. I smoke weed everyday and I’ve been arrested once. Fortunately, the cops only demanded Ksh 1,000 ($10) and let me off with a warning. Anyway, I wanted to talk a little bit about cultivation here in Kenya.

    See, most farmers still use guerrilla farming. Usually, they’ll plant their weed in between rows of maize and banana crops. This makes it hard for the plants to access sufficient sunlight and as a result, most plants turn into hermaphrodites. Moreover, the close proximity between other crops brings about unhealthy competition that results in the cannabis producing small buds with low THC content.

    I’m posting this in 2018 and I can bet my annual salary when I state that NO KENYAN GROWER PROPERLY DRIES THEIR HARVESTED BUDS. They simply lay them out in the sun to dry and all the good THC and terpenes evaporate!

    You can reach me on MassRoots. My user name is @Kidete. If you’re on Duby, you can reach me at my handle (Kidete)

    1. You are totally right, the full potential of the soil, sun and landraces im Kenya has not been yet exploited. Most weed is dried horribly and even myself i have done it often. Hermaphroditism is a real issue since it is common and complex. Some plants have a few male flowers only almost impossible to spot and finding true sensimilla is almost impossible. Today what people consider good weed is imported and it’s sad that there has not been a real chance to develop local specialties. However local seeds can give birth to really beautiful landraces if hermaphroditism is controlled. I wonder what most plants really are, i have come across Sativas and very rarely Indica, my thoughts is that most weed is either Ethiopian and hermaphrodite Kilimanjaro coming from old Thai plants. any comments on this will be very welcome it’s currently almost impossible to recognise local plants in Kenya. Cheers

  13. Ganja Planter

    How much do you pay to come out of jail after getting caught by the police yall. I need some help please!!!

    Concerned parent

  14. Great information on this blog. I live in Nairobi and I would like to update this post with current information on the ground to do with landrace strains and Nairobi’s cannabis culture.

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for your comment, and your offer of information. I have passed your comment on to the author of the article. I hope you continue to enjoy the blog 🙂

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  15. Lionthekenyan

    Weed is great in kenya, the economic benefit for legalizing is great however the government are the main dealers and their personal profit margins are higher so they won’t legalise anytime soon I guess… it would really be beautiful to see the herb be used at is was meant to: in freedom

  16. I have been smoking kush for five years now, it makes me more confident and also joyous.. In my opinion kush should be legal to some of the counties in kenya mostly the Nakuru county “home of ganja “

  17. I have been gathering seeds from different local strains for a while now….upon planting they all display one distinct similar characteristic , they grow too tall , lots of leaves but very minimal head buds develop (note, this is not as a result of neglect or over growing ) …what could be the issue…soil type?(volcanic)….nutrient deficiency?…poor seed variety?….ooh n when Kenya moves on to the next global level…I will own that very first dispensary…

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi 24 carats,

      Thank you for your comment ? Unfortunately, for legal reasons we cannot respond to grow questions on the blog, but we do have the Sensi Seeds Forum where you can ask a thriving community of gardening fans for advice, share your experiences, and see if your question has already been covered. I hope this helps.

      With best wishes

      Scarlet

    1. vivian njema

      anyone want to join me in this fight and we can make some good cash from it also

      1. What structures have been put up to represent the kenyan stoner?we uko gani?

  18. Would you happen to know If CBD oil now available in Kenya? If not is it legal now to import? kindly assist

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hello Tiffany,

      Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately I cannot find a definite answer to your question either way; Sensi Seeds does not ship any products to Kenya so it is unlikely that you would be able to import CBD oil legally. However, you could try health food shops to see if they have it as a food supplement, they might be able to order it for you. If you do manage to find it, please let us know! Good luck 🙂

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

      1. CBD oil is cannabis without the component that drives you high. It is medicinal I use it in the Netherlands and its the best stress reliever, painkiller, and sleep inducer I know. I buy from Holland & Barret. Though cannabis is illegal in UK, CBD oil is not actually addictive, so its legal. I have travelled to UK freely with it, but I think its sim0ply because the UK police are literate enough to tell the difference. I won’t trust Kenyan police on such a risk. No high at all. BUT, I fear to bring it to Kenya, because I would be mistaken for a cannabis trafficker. I advocate for medicinal Cannabis, but not freestyle street use and abuse.

      2. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

        Hi Festus,

        Thanks for your comment. CBD oil is extracted from cannabis plants but the amount of THC in the plant does not affect whether or not CBD is present. In other words, CBD can be extracted from industrial hemp plants which have less than 0.03% THC. I’m glad you are having success with the CBD oil, we also sell it and I believe ours is a little bit stronger than the Holland and Barrett one.

        The legal status of CBD oil in the UK is nothing to do with whether or not it is addictive, it’s due to the amount of THC it contains. However, it must be sold as a food supplement, not as a medicine.

        I agree that taking it to Kenya when the law is unclear on this matter is extremely risky!

        I hope you continue to enjoy the blog,

        With best wishes,

        Scarlet

      3. BilliVanilli

        Thank you for all you guys do for our beautiful gift of a plant!

  19. Next time i visit family ill be sure to pick up some seeds 😉 If only parlament in Kenya was smart like US, Amsterdam, and Netherlands. They should legalize at age 18 and tax revenue could go to the roads and schools.

  20. mi use ganja en it’s gud stuff. makes mi think big.see things in their real situation. ………..then another thing……u can never urinate on your self coz u v taken the herb by u can after taking alcohol. praise be to the most high of Israel ‘Adonai’ my God.

  21. james mdela

    am situated in kenya n av been smokin the kenyan strain for five years now n it hasnt dissapointed..i lov it

    1. African Kings

      We need to have a smoke together of some sort… I got friends who got different strains from around africa. Also saving up for an African tour and documenting the how weed has been part of African Culture.

  22. kenyan_stoner

    The society has fed most of us to thinking that weed is bad and makes us violent. What a lie. Marijuana has numerous medicinal uses but most of you have a wrong mentality. I’ll get high no matter what,F**k your mentality

    1. Na me love weed much let's pray to Jah that by 7th September its made legal

      Let it be legalized

    2. Lepariyo Lputari

      I’m a Kenyan citizen.
      What I’m thinking is not even to legalize weed in Kenya but we need to decriminalize it.
      All crazy people are associated with use of Weed.
      I reside in the country side and I love weed.
      I’m thinking of starting to intecropp weed in forest here because I wanna smoke forever and save myself from buying

  23. let’s just say i have a full ‘stone’, there and then, i sign an arrest warrant! Weed aint bad. The problem with Kenyans is that they overdo everything. am planning to visit Amsterdam as soon as i start earning. *cough**cough*. See you then

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    Sensi Seeds

    The Sensi Seeds Editorial team has been built throughout our more than 30 years of existence. Our writers and editors include botanists, medical and legal experts as well as renown activists the world over including Lester Grinspoon, Micha Knodt, Robert Connell Clarke, Maurice Veldman, Sebastian Maríncolo, James Burton and Seshata.
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    Maurice Veldman

    Maurice Veldman is a member of the Dutch Association of Criminal Lawyers and one of the Netherlands’ most notable cannabis lawyers. With 25 years’ experience in the field, his knowledge of criminal and administrative law supports cannabis sellers and hemp producers by addressing the inequalities between the individual and the state.
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