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Puff puff pass: University students on an all-time high smoking

Approximately 80 per cent of adult smokers become daily smokers before turning 21 years. Remember John is only 23 but a peddler, known as a ‘pedi’ by his customers. He rolls his blunts as he listens to reggae music. Busy with his work, he says he cannot talk more because he has classes to attend and customers to deal with.

“(Marijuana) comes in different forms – the rolling stick, cookies, mabuyu, jelly sweets – with different prices according to what the customers are used to. I have customers from different campuses, both men and ladies,” he said.

The marijuana he sells, he claims, comes from different countries, but most of his stock comes from Kenya and Tanzania, though some originates from as far away as Malawi and is sold to ‘rich’ students. “One blunt of bhang that a distributor bought from a Kenyan seller goes for Sh50. What he buys from Tanzania he sells at Sh70, I only get from one distributor and they are legit, he can make up to ksh 10000,”John says.

Meet another peddler, Francis (not his real name), from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. He lives in Ruiru and says he started selling marijuana in his second year at the university. Kamau a 22 year old said  that it all started with one cookie. He was a first-year student and some of the third-years gave it to him while he was staying in the hostels. Kamau never thought that the cookie had a drug in it, until he started feeling funny,”

“I felt like I was carrying five tonnes of cement on my head. Everything was going in circles. I started hallucinating, seeing things that were not there and why do students smoke marijuana? Some do it out of curiosity or are influenced by their peers. Others do it to boost their confidence, improve their appetite, help them sleep better and improve their social skills, he said.

For Joyce, 23, her motto is “I can’t cope, don’t mope, there’s hope, smoke dope”. A student at Mount Kenya University, she takes the substance for her world to stop moving.

“I do weed almost every day. Sometimes I think I am addicted to it. It makes me happy. “She started smoking bhang when she joined university. “I smoke it because it takes me to a totally different planet.” She said it is her way of dealing with stress.

Others use the drug to fit in certain social groups and because of peer pressure. Mary, 20, a student at the University of Nairobi, came from a religiously conservative background and now describes herself as the black sheep of her family.

“When I joined university, my brother told me about (drug use on campuses), so I was prepared to not make those mistakes. But my friends were doing it and now I do it. There is a guy in our hostels who sells the drugs. We refer to him as ‘pedi’,” she says.

Furthermore, marijuana is illegal in Kenya, although there is growing pressure to decriminalize personal use and a study on the prevalence and patterns of substance use among undergraduates at a Kenyan university found that tobacco was used by 55 percent of them, alcohol 84 percent, cannabis 20 percent and inhalants seven percent.

Article By Suzy Nyongesa