Uganda’s Response to Drug Crisis: New Control Bill Heads for Parliament Approval

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This afternoon, the Parliament of Uganda is poised to pass the 2023 Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Bill, with Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa presiding over the session.

The motivation behind this new Bill stems from the Constitutional Court’s voiding of a similar Act in the case of Wakiso Miraa Growers and Dealers Association versus Attorney General, citing a lack of quorum during its enactment.

Following this annulment, the government reintroduced the Bill on May 23, 2023, just two weeks after the Constitutional Court nullified the 2015 Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act due to insufficient quorum during its initial passage in Parliament.

Key Highlights of the Bill:

The proposed legislation seeks to criminalize various aspects of narcotic drug and psychotropic substance usage, cultivation, supply, and trade.

This Bill is in accordance with Article 3 of the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and other related international agreements, aiming to address drug-related offenses within domestic law.

Furthermore, the Bill aims to rectify the inadequacies of the National Drug Policy and Authority Act, Cap 206, which has been deemed ineffective in tackling cases of illicit drug activities.

The Bill, referred to the Committee on Defense and Internal Affairs, has the objective of establishing a comprehensive framework for combating drug trafficking, abuse, and addiction. Additionally, it aims to create mechanisms for rehabilitating drug addicts, prevent Uganda from being a drug transit route and consumer, and implement stringent measures against local drug misuse.

Penalties and Consequences:

Convictions for possession of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances could result in a fine of 500 currency points (Shs10 million) or three times the drugs’ market value, whichever is higher, or a prison term ranging from 2 to 10 years.

The act of using narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances through smoking, inhaling, sniffing, chewing, or any other method would incur a penalty of Shs480,000 to Shs2.4 million, or imprisonment of 1 to 5 years.

For possession, a fine of Shs3 million or imprisonment ranging from 3 to 5 years upon conviction has been set.

Similar penalties have been established for individuals who own, occupy, or manage premises used for abuse or manufacturing, possess utensils for illicit drug use, or facilitate the use of such substances.

In response to reports of heightened drug abuse among minors, the government seeks to discourage this behavior by imposing a penalty of Shs2.4 million or imprisonment of up to 5 years for supplying toxic chemical inhalants to young individuals.

Cultivating prohibited plants would attract a fine of Shs2.4 million or imprisonment for 5 years, while repeat offenders face a lifetime imprisonment

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