Uganda court overturns law to control drugs

Published: Updated:
Read Mode
100% Font Size
2 min read

A Ugandan court on Friday struck down a 2016 drug regulation law on a procedural technicality, allowing people to grow and consume the popular narcotic shrub khat.

Khat, also known as miraa, is a leaf consumed in East Africa and the Arabian peninsula, that can be packed into the cheeks and slowly chewed or brewed as a tea, resulting in a mild high.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The Constitutional Court agreed with a petition from an association of khat growers that too few lawmakers were present in parliament when it passed the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act 2016.

The “impugned Act having been passed without quorum inevitably resulted in the Bill being passed without receiving a sufficient number of votes namely, the majority of the quorum,” Justice Muzamiru Mutangula Kibeedi wrote in a unanimous judgement.

“This contravened... the Constitution which renders the impugned Act null and void.”

The 2016 law sought to regulate the possession of and trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as well as the cultivation of certain plants including khat.

It also prescribed strict penalties for offenders, mandating long minimum prison sentences and hefty fines for offenders found even with tiny quantities of drugs.

The Wakiso Miraa Growers and Dealers Association petitioned the court to overturn parts of the law relating to khat, said lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde, who represented the organization.

“The passage of the law had been grossly insufficient in terms of public consultation and parliamentary compliance with its own rules,” he told AFP, accusing legislators of running “roughshod over the farmers’ rights.”

“Khat is an indigenous beverage and there has been a market for it in Uganda for thousands of years. The government used bad science to classify an indigenous shrub as a prohibited plant.”

In 2017 a 27-year-old Danish man was jailed for 12 years for breaching the law after he pleaded guilty to attempting to transport over 32 kilograms of khat through Uganda’s main international airport, although he was later released on a technicality.

Read more:

Saudi forces arrest 591 smugglers, seizing 264 kg of hashish and 22.7 tons of khat

US authorities seize more than 20,000 pounds of khat

Uganda court grants bail to American couple in child torture case

Top Content Trending