The recent seizures of huge hauls of bhang (cannabis sativa) in Kirinyaga County have sent tongues wagging with fears that the use of the narcotics has sharply increased.
This year alone, law enforcers have netted over 3,500 stones of the drug which was being transported to the region with questions being asked how much is being sneaked in without notice.
Suspects charged with trafficking the prohibited substance have risen dramatically with pundits associating the upward intake of bhang to strict enforcement of laws regulating alcoholic drinks.
“Many people are shifting to smoking bhang since they no longer find cheap illicit brews in the villages,” asserts John Muthii, an anti-drug abuse campaigner.
Muthii who is the chairman of the Kirinyaga County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Forum (KICOADA) points out that punitive measures spelled in the Alcohol Control Act has minimised illicit brews.
On the other hand, each stone of bhang produces around 30 rolls of the drug which is retailed for an affordable Sh 20 to the final consumers making it one of the challenging drugs to eliminate.
But the concern to many people is how the drugs are transported as far as from Western Kenya to Kirinyaga County without detection at numerous police road blocks.
On October 10, 2018 for example, Administration Police officers were tipped that a Toyota Prado had been spotted around Kagumo town four kilometres away from the Kirinyaga Central district headquarters.
By the time they started tracking the vehicle, its occupants had offloaded the cargo and disappeared leaving behind seven sacks with 1,530 stones of bhang.
The haul was found in nearby tea bushes within Karaini village and no suspect was arrested neither the vehicle used to ferry the same found.
In yet another incident, police were tipped of a saloon car that was seen at Wang’uru Town on the Embu-Makutano highway that was carrying bhang.
The driver and transporter changed vehicles at Wanguru before proceeding to Kerugoya town where police managed to intercept the 1,800 stones at Kibingo trading centre.
In a dramatic turn of events, no suspect was arrested but the bhang was found stashed in the saloon vehicle that was towed to the Kerugoya police station.
On January 25 this year, Administration Police officers were forced to deflate tyres of a saloon vehicle which was carrying over 600 stones after the driver defied orders to stop.
But the County Commissioner (CC), Jim Njoka says the netting of bhang shows police officers around Kerugoya are fully alert and dismisses the assertion that more could be in the market.
“We are very alert, not that there has been an increase of bhang in the area,” he says, adding that they have in the recent past dismantled the illegal trade.
Njoka says the illicit trade is a guarded secret but with the help of civilians they have been able to net asignificant amount of the illicit drug being transported into the area.
He said they have also instructed chiefs and their assistants to work with Nyumba Kumi to completely eradicate the drug menace.
“We have known the suppliers usually drop their cargo at designated places mainly along the highways where the brokers pick it up for distribution to final destinations,” Njoka said.
“We have made a decision to end drug abuse in Kirinyaga as they will not help us achieve the desired social/economic development,” says the administrator.
School children have too been introduced to bhang and one student was last year expelled after he was caught with several rolls while trying to sneak them to the institution.
The CC said that guidelines have raised issues to register all bar outlets close to learning institutions and makeshift kiosks which are used in peddling of the drugs to school children.
Former governor, Joseph Ndathi who during his tenure initiated the fight against drug abuse said a deliberate effort must be put in place if the fight is to be won.
Ndathi says Kirinyaga had been classified as a transit zone for hard drugs adding that many youths whose lives have been wasted by their engagement in taking of the hard drugs had reached alarming proportions and urgent remedial measures must be put in place.
By Irungu Mwangi