Every so often, we are treated to displays of cocaine, heroin and bhang stacked in the back of private vehicles or outside police stations on canvas, with proud officers guarding the seized consignments as media record the vast amounts, beaming this to a desensitised audience.
More recently, news of the verdicts of the Akasha brothers Ibrahim and Baktash in a New York court, where their sentencing had been expected and then moved to November, brings to sharp focus the soft underbelly of society and the harshness of the narcotics world.
In Wensley Clarkson’s book Hash, the multi-billion pound underworld web spanning the globe with the help of terrorists, poor farmers, drug traffickers, crooked cops and ambitious gangsters in the mix comes to light. It starts, “welcome to Hash, renowned as the world’s most socially acceptable recreational drug.”
Clarkson continues, “It’s reckoned that hashish provides the biggest single source of actual income for organised crime across the globe.” How much of this finds its way to Kenya? Unfortunately the book doesn’t delve into this even though the Kenyan coast has been described in former US Ambassador William Bellamy’s cables as a “narcotic corridor”.
“Hash instead focuses on the budding and flourishing trade between mainland Europe, notably Spain, the Netherlands and Britain while pairing with most of the hashish- growing areas of the world: largely Morocco’s Rif mountain region, Afghanistan and Pakistan, to mention but a few.
Small time crooks, petty thieves and struggling addicts litter the pages of Hash, struggling with staying alive— thanks to the violence of crime and drug- dealing. It comes therefore as no surprise that murders and threats are chronicled as commonplace, for in the underworld, the players can quickly be dispensed to the afterworld.
Calls to legalise hashish’s cousin cannabis sativa or “bhang” has been gaining momentum across the world. In Amsterdam, the “hash cafes” are not only tolerated but thriving. In America, it has been legalised in some states, while in Britain the police continue to bust shipments crossing their borders regularly.
Here in Kenya, the late Kibra MP Ken Okoth sponsored a bill in 2018 seeking to legalise the use and growth of the weed, calls that were reiterated by Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko during the legislator’s funeral service a week ago in Nairobi. Only time will tell how this pans out. Hash is, however, a harsh reminder of the ills of the world we live in, when those in it have nothing to lose.