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Kenya: “Poison Brew” Legalized

(Sept. 17, 2010) It was reported on September 7, 2010, that Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki has signed into law the Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill, 2009 (the law), which seeks to dramatically shift Kenya's policy on the regulation of production, sale, and consumption of chang'aa. (Kenya Signs Alcohol Bill into Law,
IMANI CENTER FOR POLICY AND EDUCATION (Sept. 7, 2010), Chang'aa (also commonly known as “poison brew” or “kill-me-quick”) is a potent alcoholic brew commonly distilled from grains, including millet, maize, and sorghum. If mixed incorrectly, it can cause health risks ranging from blindness to death. (KANERE, llegal Chang'aa a Fact of Life, 1:2 KAKUMA NEWS REFLECTOR (Jan. 2009),

Chang'aa is currently sold in the black market. The informal liquor market accounts for 40% of the Kenyan liquor market, estimated to be worth KES 42 billion (about US$ 520,768,744) (John Ngirachu, Kibaki Declines to Sign Price Control Bill, DAILY NATION ON THE WEB (Sept. 1, 2010),

The law introduces a major shift in the Kenyan alcohol regulatory regime by taking steps to ensure that chang'aa is sold and consumed out in the open, in a controlled manner. It legalizes the production, sale, and consumption of chang'aa by repealing the Prohibition Act of 1980 and introduces regulatory measures to lower health risks. (The Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill, §67, KENYA LAW REPORTS (KLR) website,
.) The law prohibits the sale of chang'aa to individuals under the age of 18 (id. §28). It makes selling of objects, toys, or candies that resemble or imitate alcoholic drinks a serious offense punishable with up to three years of imprisonment and a fine (id.). It introduces strict and specific requirements on labeling drinks with the ingredients used in their production as well as health warnings (id. §32). The law also strengthens the liquor licensing framework by repealing the Liquor Licensing Act of 1957 and introducing more stringent licensing requirements (id. Part III). It establishes a fund called the Alcoholic Drinks Control Fund, which will be made available, among other things, for “research, documentation and dissemination of information on alcoholic drinks and promoting national cessation and rehabilitation programs” (id. §5).

In addition to providing an effective way of regulating the production and consumption of chang'aa, the law is expected to create opportunities for farmers by turning their food crops (sorghum, millet, maize) into cash crops and expanding the market for existing cash crops (mangos, bananas, pineapple). (Steve Mbogo, Law on Traditional Liquor Spells Boon for Farmers, BUSINESS DAILY (Sept. 14, 2010),