BY MUBARAK HASSAN MUHENDA
The house passed Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Control Bill 2023 on 22nd August 2023 during the Tuesday plenary session chaired by Deputy Speaker of Parliament Thomas Tayebwa prohibiting the growing of Khat locally known as Miraa in Uganda.
According to the Parliament Watch website, after the Constitutional Court’s decision to nullify the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Control Act, 2016 in May this year, it was thought that the Bill would be passed easily through its reintroduction.
“The 2016 law was nullified after it was successfully challenged by Wakiso Miraa Growers and Dealers Association with Court zeroing on the issue of lack of quorum at the time the 9th Parliament passed it,” the statement read in part.
Before the Bill was passed with a quorum of 202 legislators, debate evolved on whether to remove Miraa from the list of prohibited plants under the 4th Schedule of the Bill.
Meanwhile, the plant farmers, under the association umbrella that runs them threatened to petition the president of Uganda in case this bill is presented to him for approval through their chairperson Mr. Vicent Kizito.
“We shall also petition the constitutional court,” added Kizito.
Dr Timothy Batuwa vigorously challenged the house for Miraa to be removed from the 4th Schedule of the Bill as one of the prohibited plants saying that it is not as dangerous as alcohol to human life.
Dr Batuwa also stated that the legalization of Miraa growing would merge with what happens in other East African countries where the plant is freely cultivated and used controllably by sections of the public.
This happened a few months after the same farmers emerged victors after challenging the same bill, amendment by then, saying it was based on propaganda more than research or approvals from scientists through their lawyer Isaac Semakadde around May this year.
It was a panel of five judges according to The East African which ruled that the methodology in which the Bill had been enacted was illegal because of the parliamentary laws of having a quorum before any bill is passed.
The bill only allows one to cultivate Khat freely for only medical reasons or after getting approval from the Ministry of Health.
Under clause 5 of the bill, convicted traffickers could face a penalty of a fine of UGX 1bn or three times the market value of a narcotic drug or psychotropic substance whichever is greater, or life imprisonment. Convicted traffickers for substances other than narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances, on conviction could be fined UGX 500m or a jail sentence of 20 years or both.
Under clause 7, a pharmacist who prescribes any of the prohibited drugs and substances under the Act will suffer a Shs1 billion fine, 10 years in jail or both.
Under clause 8, medical professionals who, in contravention of their duties under this Act, prescribe and supply the prohibited substances will have their names removed from the registry of professionals.
“A medical practitioner, pharmacist, dentist or any other person who supplies or administers a narcotic drug or psychotropic substance to a child where the narcotic drug or psychotropic substance is not required in the treatment of a child, commits an offense and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand currency points or to imprisonment for life or both,” states Clause 10.