Stringent New Law Aims to Plug Loopholes in Illicit Drug Use and Safeguard Minors, Declares Tayebwa

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KAMPALA – On Tuesday, August 22, 2023, the Ugandan Parliament deliberated on and ratified The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Bill of 2023.

If approved by the President, the bill will combat the misuse of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances by imposing strict penalties on both drug abusers and dealers, as outlined by Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Thomas Tayebwa.

Tayebwa, presiding over the session, asserted that the new legislation was designed to eliminate vulnerabilities in the trade and usage of illegal drugs and substances.

“We’ve addressed all the deficiencies and introduced a comprehensive law that will fortify the fight against the distribution and consumption of unlawful drugs and substances. Our nation grapples with drug abuse. This issue isn’t confined to the youth; even adults, including some parents, are entangled. Out of the 7,035 patients admitted in 2022, 25% suffered from alcohol and drug abuse,” Tayebwa emphasized, urging Members of Parliament to initiate conversations with their children and constituents about the perils of drugs.

Tayebwa indicated that the Parliament has instituted strict measures to save lives and mitigate the adverse consequences of drug misuse within communities.

Appealing to parents, he stressed the importance of monitoring their children, asserting that only those who’ve witnessed drug and substance abuse within their families can fully comprehend the pain it inflicts.

“If you haven’t witnessed addiction within your family, you won’t understand. I, personally, have experienced this within my family, and we endure significant hardships. It starts innocently; many of our colleagues are slowly losing loved ones due to their children’s struggles with substance abuse,” he revealed.

Clause 10 of the Bill, if enacted, places a strong emphasis on protecting children, imposing life imprisonment on anyone who administers drugs or psychotropic substances to minors without medical necessity.

“Medical practitioners, pharmacists, dentists, or any individuals supplying or administering narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances to minors when not medically required commit an offense. Upon conviction, they are subject to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand currency points or lifelong imprisonment, or both,” states Clause 10.

Farmers involved in the cultivation of prohibited substances will now be required to secure licenses from the health ministry. Failure to do so will result in imprisonment, as stipulated in clause 11.

Recidivists will now face incarceration.

To curb unwarranted searches and arrests authorized by the Bill, clause 18 holds authorized individuals personally accountable for arrests or searches conducted without reasonable cause.

Under clause 7, a pharmacist who prescribes any prohibited drugs and substances under the Act will be liable for a fine of Shs1 billion, a decade in prison, or both.

Clause 8 specifies that medical professionals who violate their duties under this Act by prescribing or supplying prohibited substances will have their names removed from the professionals’ registry.

Efforts by MP Kabanda Nalule to extend this provision to include Police and army personnel were unsuccessful, with MPs rejecting her proposed amendments.

Kajwengye lauded Deputy Speaker Tayebwa, stating, “Your guidance and leadership are commendable. I’m pleased that we’ve enacted legislation directly benefiting our citizens.”

Gen. David Muhoozi, the State Minister of Internal Affairs, commended MPs for enacting the law, noting that the government’s intention is for the law to fulfill its intended purpose.

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