Parliament passes Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Bill, 2023 today

The Deputy Speaker of Parliament Thomas Tayebwa (PHOTO/Courtesy).

KAMPALA – Parliament of Uganda is expected to pass the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Bill, 2023 after weeks of scrutiny.

The deputy speaker Thomas Tayebwa is expected to preside over the Tuesday afternoon sitting.

The 2023 Bill was introduced by the government following annulment by the Constitutional Court of a similarly worded Act in the case of Wakiso Miraa Growers and Dealers Association versus Attorney General for want of quorum when it was enacted.

In the committee, the government, through the Minister of Internal Affairs, Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Kahinda Otafiire, had strongly vouched for the legalisation of cannabis for medical use and khat.

The government reintroduced the Bill on May 23rd, 2023, two weeks after the Constitutional Court nullified the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act on grounds that at the time of its passing Parliament lacked the required quorum.

What is in the Bill?

The Bill seeks to criminalize the use, farming, supply, and trading of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

The proposed law is anchored on the policy that adopts measures to criminalize drug-related offenses under domestic law in conformity with Article 3 of the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and other related international conventions.

The Government also wants to address the defects in the National Drug Policy and Authority Act, Cap 206 which has been deemed “very weak and does not adequately address cases of illicit drugs”.

The Bill that has now been referred to the Committee on Defense and Internal Affairs for scrutiny is being proposed to have a law that will suppress the problems related to drug trafficking and abuse; provide deterrent measures against local drug abuse; establish mechanisms for rehabilitating drugs addicts; and save Uganda from being a transit route and consumer of drugs.


If convicted of possessing narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances, a penalty fine of 500 currency points (UGX10m) or three times the market value of the said drugs, whichever is higher, or imprisonment not less than 2 years but not exceeding 10 years, have been set in the new Bill.

Smoking, inhaling, sniffing, chewing, or any form of use of a narcotic drug or psychotropic substance attracts a penalty of not less than UGX480,000 and not exceeding UGX2.4m or a custodial sentence of not less than 1 year but not exceeding 5 years while possession has an UGX3m fine or imprisonment not less than 3 years but not exceeding 5 years upon conviction.

The same penalty has been retained for a person who owns or occupies or manages premises or permits premises to be used for abuse or manufacturing; has a pipe or utensils used for illicit use; and, who recruits or proposes the use of these drugs.

As was with the annulled law, the above penalties will not apply to a medical worker, dentist, veterinary surgeon, or registered pharmacist who is found in possession of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances if he or she has a license issued by the National Drug Authority. However, a medical practitioner or veterinary surgeon who uses narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances for treatment except where it is required for a patient is liable to a UGX24m fine or a custodial sentence not exceeding five years.

If found guilty of trafficking narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, you will be charged a UGX10m fine or three times the market value or life imprisonment.

A punishment not less than Shs2.4m fine or imprisonment of not less than 1 year and not exceeding 5 years has been proposed for a person who knowingly or has reason to believe that he/she is handling a parcel, package, container, or any other thing that contains narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances.

Other provisions

To avoid additional abuse of these drugs on medical grounds, the Government has emphasized the need to deregister from the national register of professional bodies any medical practitioner, veterinary surgeon, dentist, or pharmacist who would be convicted of improper prescription of these drugs.

Due to reports of increased drug abuse among minors, Government wants to curb the vice by putting in place a deterrent penalty of not less than UGX2.4m or imprisonment not exceeding 5 years for a person convicted of supplying toxic chemical inhalants to young persons while the cultivation of certain prohibited plants would attract a fine of UGX2.4m or 5 years imprisonment, and for a second or repeat offender, imprisonment for life.

Post drug abuse

The Government also proposes the establishment of a rehabilitation centre and a fund to help deal with victims of abuse of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances in the country.  While the rehabilitation centres would be operated across the country, there would also be a National Coordination Committee for Drug Control with the functions of defining, promoting, and coordinating the policy of the Government for the control of drug abuse and trafficking.

If the law is passed, the Attorney General of Uganda will have the mandate to request an appropriate authority in another country to arrange for evidence taking in case of investigations under this law.

However, mental health experts argue, that punitive laws like this push people away from health and social services that are vital to management of drug dependence, prevention of the transmission of HIV, and support for people to live full and productive lives.

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