The Parliament of Uganda is set to pass the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Bill, 2023, during this afternoon’s session. Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa is expected to preside over the proceedings.
The introduction of this new Bill by the government follows the annulment by the Constitutional Court of a similar Act in the case of Wakiso Miraa Growers and Dealers Association versus the Attorney General. The previous Act was invalidated due to a lack of quorum at the time of its enactment. In response, the government reintroduced the Bill on May 23, 2023, just two weeks after the Constitutional Court nullified the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, of 2015, on similar grounds.
Content of the Bill
The Bill’s primary objective is to criminalize the use, cultivation, supply, and trade of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. This legislation is rooted in a policy framework that aligns domestic law with Article 3 of the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, as well as other relevant international conventions. The government also seeks to rectify the deficiencies in the National Drug Policy and Authority Act, Cap 206, which has been criticized for its inadequate response to cases of illicit drugs.
The Bill referred to the Committee on Defense and Internal Affairs aims to address issues related to drug trafficking and abuse, establish deterrent measures against local drug misuse, create mechanisms for rehabilitating drug addicts, and prevent Uganda from becoming a drug transit route and consumer.
The Bill proposes stringent penalties for various drug-related offences:
· Possession of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances could result in a fine of 500 currency points (equivalent to Shs10 million) or three times the market value of the drugs, whichever is higher, and a prison term ranging from 2 to 10 years.
· Using narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances through smoking, inhaling, sniffing, chewing, or any other method could lead to a fine between Shs480,000 and Shs2.4 million, or imprisonment ranging from 1 to 5 years.
· Possession of drug-related paraphernalia or premises used for abuse or manufacturing could result in a fine of Shs3 million or a prison term ranging from 3 to 5 years.
Recognizing the escalating drug abuse among minors, the government proposes a stringent penalty of not less than Shs2.4 million or imprisonment not exceeding 5 years for supplying toxic chemical inhalants to young individuals. Additionally, cultivating prohibited plants could result in a fine of Shs2.4 million or a prison term of 5 years, and for repeat offenders, a potential life sentence.