Korogocho: The city’s main cannabis supplier
Welcome to Korogocho, the city’s wholesale market for cannabis.
Here, hundreds of stones of cannabis, popularly known as bhang, are concealed in bags containing farm produce to avoid detection.
The bulk of the bhang is smuggled into the country from Tanzania and as far as Ethiopia.
In this business, one is a peddler in either high or low grade bhang.
Low grade bhang is usually packaged as ‘miraa’ and transported in private, expensive vehicles or at times on handcarts.
For this grade, some dealers opt to grow the plant on small scale.
In one of the slums in Upper Savanna, the plant is grown on the banks of running sewage water that flows through a nearby quarry.
One slum resident said the plants were usually hidden between sugarcane and tall grass. He added that not much cannabis was grown these days because new police officers have been posted at Caltex.
The relationship between peddlers and the police used to be that whenever the police went on their security rounds around Upper Savanna and found dealers at work, they turned a blind eye after receiving bribes.
“The new cops are very aggressive so we have changed the way we do things,” said a bhang user.
Many buyers wear two pairs of pants; either a pair of trousers or shorts with another short inside which has many pockets. The idea is to hide the bhang in the inner shorts.
Dealers also thoroughly vet clients before deciding whether or not to sell.
Gladi, a dealer in one of the slums behind Savanna is a married mother of three.
She sells bhang to complement her earnings from other side hustles. Whenever she is held up, her husband or children transact the business on her behalf.
“I get my stash from ‘Koch’ (Korogocho) at Sh200 per kilo and Sh100 per stone. I process them to remove the seeds and stems because it is the leaves we need and a kilo can roll up to 50 slims,” said Gladi.
She said the seeds have to be removed because they explode when heated and she takes about 30 seconds to roll one slim. She sells one for between Sh10 and Sh20 and earns an average of Sh15,000 a month.
Her customers are teens and young adults of middle class families living in Upper Savanna, Kayole and Pipeline estates. They also include masons, manual labourers and police officers.
Secretive and selective
She has been arrested once and jailed for two years for being violent.
Kiarie is a dealer at Mlango Kubwa. Compared to Gladi who sells the bhang in her house, far off the beaten path, he transacts by the roadside.
“I’ve sold bhang for more than five years and every user here knows where to find me. I am friends with a lot of police officers so I can’t be arrested that easily except for the occasional new ‘sanse’ (police officer) who takes us in,” said Kiarie.
He peddles the drugs for an elderly couple who smuggle them through the Tanzania-Kenya border.
“They have someone at the border whom they bribe to make sure he is the one who always inspects their car and they get in without any problems,” he said.
He also sells a roll for between Sh10 and Sh20 and gets about Sh2,000 a day. He says his major problems are the random police operations.
“We’ve learnt to anticipate them because they are mostly carried out at 8am, 2pm and between 8pm and 10pm. We have a system where those close to the roads send messages warning the others,” said Kiarie.
If arrested, police at first demand about Sh2,000 to give the culprit an opportunity to haggle for lower bribes. Dealers prefer to bribe instead of being taken to court where they are likely to be fined not less than Sh20,000.
They also have to keep to their turfs to avoid clashes between users and to provide customers the opportunity to plant their loyalties to whichever dealers they prefer.
Kiarie judges customers by their looks. He claims he can tell the difference between a bhang user and a non-user by merely looking.
Low grade bhang dealers work from the streets where their reputation for quality and quantity are their greatest marketing strategies.
Rydo, a 26-year-old operates from his house in Umoja though he has a tendency of ripping off his customers by selling thinner slims.
High grade peddlers are more secretive and selective of their customers because they sell cannabis laced with chemicals to increase potency. They work from their homes and orders for cannabis, according to a dealer, can only be purchased via phone.
“I only deal with customers I know or those referred to me. I do not personally take on new ones because I have to be careful not to reveal my house to the police in case someone tries to set me up,” said Junior, a Tassia resident.
In a week, Junior earns an average of between Sh10,000 and Sh15,000.
This strain is the hyped bhang most party hoppers use because of their glamorisation by the media and the hype of it being stronger and keeping one ‘stoned’ for far longer hours than low grade bhang.