This is an update from the Parliament of Uganda marking the 18th Sitting of the 1st Meeting of the 3rd Session of the 11th Parliament. This Sitting was chaired by the Deputy Speaker Rt. Hon. Thomas Tayebwa. In his communication, the Speaker welcomed members to today’s sitting.
The House then moved on to consider the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Bill, 2023 under the second reading. State Minister for Internal Affairs Hon. Muhoozi David told MPs that the risks caused by narcotics substances and drug trafficking are far-reaching & if untamed in time, can adversely affect Uganda economically, socially, and even its security. The Minister added that the Bill, therefore, seeks to domesticate international enforcement best practices & also provide interim measures against drug abuse, establish mechanisms for the rehabilitation of drug addicts, and put in place measures to save Uganda from being a transit route and consumer of drugs. Hon. Wilson Kajwengye, the Chairperson of the Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs presented the report on the same. According to the Chair, this Bill was read for the first time on 23rd May 2023 and referred to the Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs for scrutiny, following the nullification of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act, 2015 by the Constitutional Court over lack of quorum. He added that The Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances (Control) Bill, 2023 seeks to; provide deterrent measures against local drug abuse; establish mechanisms for the rehabilitation of drug addicts; put in place measures to save Uganda from being a transit route and consumer of drugs; facilitate cooperation with the international community in the fight against drug trafficking and establish mechanisms for generating resources for law enforcement agencies.
Hon. Kajwenge told the House that illicit drug use has become a global public health problem with adverse health, social and economic consequences. The Chair also revealed that In Uganda, there is increased documented drug abuse among particularly youth from wealthy families and students. The Committee observed that if enacted, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Bill, 2023 will significantly help Uganda’s fight against the abuse and trafficking of illicit drugs, both internally and across borders. The Committee also observed that whilst some jurisdictions have relaxed the restrictions on cannabis, its abuse over its psychotropic effects is more profound, and this continues to pose severe risks to public health. The Chair also reported that between January 2021 to June 2023, DGAL received 178 cases of narcotic drugs in 2021, 295 cases in 2022, and 83 cases from Jan-June 2023. “From these, cannabis was the most abused drug making 68.2% in 2021, 80.1% in 2022, and 76.4% in 2023,” Hon. Kajwenge said. He added that “It was found that cannabis was largely affordable and associated with criminal cases related to theft, burglaries, violence, and accidents”. The Committee, therefore, recommended the prohibition of the consumption of cannabis & khat and should only be allowed for cultivation and usage strictly for medical purposes and research.
Reacting to the Bill, Aruu County MP, Hon Christopher Komakech said the economic benefits of legalising cannabis and khat cannot warrant the lives of the young people. “Anyone who uses marijuana cannot get treatment and get cured. We can treat these addicts but we cannot cure them,” said Hon. Komakech. Hon. Kaaya Christine (DWR, Kiboga District, NUP) doubted the Government’s capacity to control the consumption of narcotics. “I see no funds to monitor adherence to mechanisms that we are providing for. Who is going to monitor that from production, no one is going to consume [narcotics]?” said Hon. Christine. The Attorney General, Kiryowa Kiwanuka said medical practitioners, including dentists & pharmacists who abuse the use of narcotics in their possession, will not only be fined or jailed but also deregistered from their profession as proposed in clause 8 of the Bill. Hon Muwanga Kivumbi (MP, Butambala County, NUP) on his part asked Government to tread carefully to avoid criminalising khat (miraa) growers because it is not a prohibited plant. In response, the Deputy Speaker said “There should be no panic over this because the crops being prohibited are in the schedule which we have not yet discussed. Debate on the Narcotics Drugs Bill will resume tomorrow at 2 pm.
The Speaker afterward adjourned the House to tomorrow, 17th August 2023 at 2.00 pm.