The National Authority for the Campaign against Drug Abuse (NACADA) has rolled out measures to combat cross border drug trafficking in counties that border Ethiopia, the main source of marijuana consumed in the country.
Speaking during a press conference on the side-lines of a meeting for regional security heads held in one of the hotels in Meru, NACADA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Victor Okioma said they were out to facilitate the forum to address the challenges of trafficking of Marijuana.
“We have the regional commissioners and their teams from Eastern and North-Eastern, as well as the Central region which is basically a consumer of the most trafficked Marijuana,” said Mr. Okioma.
He said the forum was a follow-up of another meeting held in November last year in the county, where they identified some of the routes the traffickers are using.
“We agreed on actionable points during the previous meeting, where we left relevant county and sub-county security committees to implement,” he said adding that they were coming together to review the progress made from the previous meeting and to track progress made in sealing up identified routes.
He said the authority’s main responsibility was to enhance partnership in trying to counter the menace.
Apart from patroling the routes, Mr. Okioma said the fight against marijuana was getting tougher considering that the dealers were combining the substance with comodities like sweets, candies, and cookies among others in their latest innovations.
“We recently did a survey on emerging substances of abuse and the innovations around the products used, and we found out that the peddlers have invented ways of using marijuana in other substances that make it hard to identify,” he said.
He however added that their main campaign to counter this is to mobilise the entire country to know the forms in which the drug is dispensed, so that citizens can support in countering the menace.
He said Marijuana is the most abused narcotic in the country and added the drug is responsible for a number of mental illnesses.
On politics surrounding legalisation of Marijuana, Mr. Okioma said this was harmful and that the countries that have gone down that route including Peru, Mexico, and other South American countries have suffered the consequences.
“I hope that the politics around its legalisation shall come out clearly and give us examples where this has happened. I can tell you they are very few if they are, and it is only the ones who have tightly controlled its production so that no diversion has taken place,” said Mr Okioma.
“I want to warn Kenyans that this is a game that can turn out to be very dangerous for our country. Let us know marijuana is harmful and should never be allowed for recreation,” Okioma said.
Central region’s Esther Maina said they have put in place a multi-agency approach to apprehend the traffickers in their area, which acts as a transit route to Nairobi and the coastal region
“The issue of drug trafficking is a complex one and nobody has a monopoly of ideas on how to eradicate the menace,” she said.
She added that some of the marijuana consumed in her region is cultivated internally and added these were some of the issues they were up to address as a region.
James Kianda from the North-Eastern region said they were working together with NACADA and other security agencies within the Ministry of Interior to manage the trafficking routes through arrests, interception, and arraignment.
“I can confirm that we have many stories to tell where we have been able to intercept marijuana and taken suspects to court,” Kianda said.
He added that they have also discovered new trafficking routes both in North Eastern and Eastern regions and were working together to manage them through deployments, surveillance, and monitoring to ensure they curtail the process.
His Eastern counterpart Evans Achoki said as a measure to curtail abuse of drugs in the region, they have forged a working relationship with other agencies and were looking at the problem through supply and demand lenses.
“On the issue of supply, we have realised that most of the bhang consumed by our youth comes from a place called Shashamane in Ethiopia,” said Mr. Achoki.
Achoki said the administration has had a meeting with Ethiopian authorities to cut off the supply from the source.
He said they have also been conducting inland checks for incoming vehicles, and this has been stepped up by the introduction of sniffer dogs along the identified routes.
“We have also realised that the demand for these drugs is amongst our youth, and we have consequently stepped-up campaign against the use of these substances by working closely with our churches, learning institutions, and village elders to discourage them from the abuse,” said Achoki.