By Christine Mungai (email the author)
According to the proposed law, the drug will only be administered in health institutions to relieve pain or to treat mental problems. Photo/FILE
It could be the first step in fulfilling the hazy dream of many a reggae artiste.
Marijuana, considered as dangerous as cocaine and heroin in the statute books, remains illegal in all East African countries.
However, this may change. In June last year, Rwanda took the initial steps in legalising marijuana strictly for medical purposes, the first country in Africa to do so.
The proposed law provides that marijuana will only be administered in health institutions to relieve pain or to treat mental problems.
Rwanda’s Minister of Health, Dr Richard Sezibera while presenting the draft law to Parliament, said that the objective of the Bill was to contribute to the protection of the population while “ensuring that drugs and psychotropic substances are exclusively available for scientific and medical purposes”.
If the Bill passes into law, Rwanda will join the ranks of countries such as Belgium and Canada, where, with a doctor’s prescription, patients are allowed to possess a small amount of the drug to alleviate chronic debilitating symptoms such as neuropathic pain and side effects of chemotherapy.
The implications of the move in the region are potentially far-reaching.
It is speculated that with the greater availability of a relatively affordable pain treatment that medical marijuana offers, Rwanda could conceivably become the hospice care capital of East Africa, in a region where specialised care and anti-pain medication for the terminally ill is often out of reach of most patients.
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