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Is Kenya Ready To Legalize Marijuana?

Marijuana remains an illegal drug in Kenya, with the government having a harsh punishment for those who grow, produce, distribute and use the Sativa herb.

A US company involved in the cultivation and processing of marijuana has announced plans to cross-list on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE), putting to test Kenya’s resolve to maintain the drug on the list of banned narcotics amid legislative pressure to legalize it.

The firm, Bangi Inc., which is traded on the New York Over The Counter (OTC) market, counts among its board members well know US celebrities including Mathew Knowles, the father of global superstar Beyoncé Knowles.

Renowned actor and rapper Ray J (William Norwood Jr), a brother of another US superstar artist Brandy, and TV actor Hill Harper are also listed as board members of Bangi.

In a statement, the company said its board has approved its cross-listing on the NSE, despite the drug remaining banned in Kenya.

“A dual listing in Africa would be a natural step for the company considering its corporate name, “BANGI” means “marijuana” or “hemp” in Swahili, one of the most spoken languages in Africa,” said Neil Parsan, chairman and chief executive officer of BANGI Inc.

“The Kenyan capital market has grown rapidly in recent years and has also exhibited strong capital raising capacity, which will allow us to access an entirely untapped market valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars.”

NSE chief executive Geoffrey Odundo said the bourse had not yet received any listing application from the firm, adding that he was not aware of its existence. “I have not heard about the organization,” he said, even as he promised to establish its identity.

Kenyan laws prohibit any dealings in cannabis with hefty fines and jail terms meted out to deter possession, cultivation, and trafficking of the drug in its fresh, dried or processed form.

Bangi describes itself as a diversified investment vehicle that acquires and leases specialized real estate assets in the cannabis, hemp, and Cannabidiol (CBD) industries.

The company says it recently rolled out the initial stage of its acquisition of a prime 7,000 square foot property located in Detroit City’s famous Eight Mile district.

It intends to operate the property as licensed cannabis cultivation and processing facility upon completion of renovations. US celebrities are increasingly endorsing and even investing in the newly liberalized marijuana industry.

Mr. Knowles, a record executive, and former manager of the hip hop group Destiny’s Child are listed as Bangi’s chief marketing officer. He is also the father of another superstar artist, Solange Knowles.

The company’s board chairman, Neil Parsan, is a former US diplomat in the Caribbean who also had a stint as a World Bank advisor.

The firm’s shares are listed on the New York-based financial trading platform OTC Markets where 9,620 securities are traded. The OTC Markets offer firms a cheaper and easier alternative to listing compared to traditional US exchanges such as the Nasdaq Stock Market and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and comes with fewer disclosure requirements for most firms.

Only the top of the three-tier OTC market, known as OTCQX, is regulated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the capital markets regulator in America.

Bangi is listed on the lowest tier of the market known as OTC Pink, where disclosure requirements are low, hence it is difficult to ascertain the credibility and viability of companies on the counter. The firm is the latest to turn its attention to the country for potential expansion, even as the government has dismissed any calls for its legalization.

Another US firm, GoIP Global Inc – incidentally also listed on the OTC Markets of New York — in March claimed to have obtained a permit to cultivate marijuana on 500 acres of land in Kenya. The government then denied issuing such a license, warning that marijuana remains a prohibited plant in the country’s statutes.

Agricultural Research principal secretary Hamadi Boga said at the time that he was not aware of any permit issued to GoIP Global Inc for the growing of cannabis.

“I am not aware of the licensing of the said firm to grow marijuana. As you are aware, cannabis is not in the list of crops that we currently regulate,” said Prof Boga.

11 US states have legalized marijuana, leading to the proliferation of start-ups targeting the potentially lucrative industry. Canada also recently approved the use of the crop for medicinal value, with firms eyeing the business rushing to list and fundraise on the country’s stock exchange.

The product remains illegal in many African countries, bar a handful including South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Lesotho that has legalized its cultivation.

Kenyans are waiting to see what their president, popular known as Ganja 1 if he will rise to the occasion and legalize the much-used herb. We know all of the Kenyan leaders are smoking weed and they hide behind ‘Bangi ni haramu na hairusiwi’.

If it becomes legalized just know that the Kenyatta’s have finally ventured into that business and they will want to control and monopolized it.