Thomas Tayebwa; New strict narcotics law to fix gaps in the use of illicit drugs, protect children

KAMPALA – Parliament on Tuesday, August 22, 2023, considered and passed The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Bill, 2023.

The bill, if signed by the President will address the misuse of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances by imposing punitive measures on drug abusers and dealers, according to the Deputy Speaker of Parliament Thomas Tayebwa.

Tayebwa who presided over the sitting said Parliament sought to fix all gaps on the supply and use of illicit drugs and substances.

“We have fixed all the gaps and introduced a robust law that will bolster efforts against the supply and use of illicit drugs and substances. We have a drug abuse problem in the country. Drug abuse is not limited to young people; adults including some parents are involved. Out of the 7,035 patients admitted in 2022, 25% were due to alcohol and drug abuse,” Tayebwa said urging Members of Parliament to speak to their children and constituents about drugs.

He said Parliament has put in place punitive measures to save lives and reduce the harmful effects of drug abuse in communities.

Tayebwa asked parents to keep watch over their children, saying only a person who has a victim of drugs and substance abuse in their families will contextualise the pain they have to go through.

“If you have not had an addict in your family, you will not know; I personally have one in our family and we go through a lot; it starts in a simple way; we have many colleagues who are dying slowly because their children are suffering from drugs and substances abuse,” he said.

Clause 10 of the Bill, if it becomes law, goes big in the protection of children, with life imprisonment awaiting anyone who intoxicates them with drugs and psychotropic substances.

“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 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,” reads Clause 10.

Farmers involved in the cultivation of the prohibited substances will now have to obtain licences from the health ministry, and those who fail to do so will suffer jail, according to the content of clause 11.

Repeated offenders will now suffer jail.

To cure malicious searches and arrests by persons authorised by the Bill, clause 18 puts personal liability on authorised persons who conduct arrests or searches without reasonable cause.

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.

Efforts by MP Kabanda Nalule to have the Police and army personnel also laced into that particular provision failed, with MPs rejecting her proposed amendments.

Kajwengye commended Deputy Speaker Tayebwa for “your guidance and leadership; I am happy that we have passed a legislation that has a direct bearing on our people.”

Internal Affairs State Minister, Gen. David Muhoozi, was all praise to MPs for enacting the law, saying government’s intention is to have the law ‘serve the ends it set out to achieve.’