Constitutional Court throws out weed, Mairungi enforcement law

The Constitutional Court in Kampala has quashed the entire Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Control Act of 2016 for being passed without full quorum in Parliament. 

On Friday, the five Constitutional Court Justices comprised of the Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera, Stephen Musota who has since been elevated to the Supreme Court, Muzamiru Mutangula Kibeedi , Irene Mulyagonja and Monica Mugyenyi unanimously allowed a 2017 the petition filed by Wakiso Miraa Growers and Dealers Association Limited against the Attorney General.

The Parliament had put in place this law to ban several drugs including Cannabis , Bush Cocoa and specifically Mairungi on grounds that it is a psychoactive drug which  contains cathinone and cathine, a substance known for several side effects such as increased blood pressure, a state of euphoria and elation with feelings of increased alertness and arousal.

The Wakiso Miraa Growers and Dealers Association Limited sued the Attorney General through their lawyers led by Isaac Ssemakadde challenging, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Control Act for prohibiting and criminalizing the cultivation, possession, consumption, sale , distribution, transportation and exportation of Catha edulis (khat) commonly known in Uganda as Miraa or Mairungi  by classifying it as a prohibited plant.

The Petitioners argued that the law was not backed up by any scientific evidence yet it had affects their livelihood as Mairungi farmers, sellers and consumers.

Constitutional Court throws out weed, Mairungi enforcement law

In their affidavit evidence from their Chairperson Kizito and their Legal Officer Isabella Nakiyonga they particularly stated that it was unconstitutional for Parliament to ban Mairungi. They asked the Constitutional Court to decategorize khat as a prohibited plant and Psychotropic Substance under the Narcotics Drugs Act in question.

They further asked Court to issue an order permanently staying the implementation of the Narcotics Drugs Act and award them costs of the petition for the inconveniences caused to them.

In their judgement, the Justices have been in agreement with Mairungi farmers that the process of passing the bill was flawed as the required number of MP was not attained on the November 19th, 2015 when the said Bill was passed and the Deputy Speaker by then did not take it upon himself to ascertain the existence of required quorum.

As such the Justices in the decision wrote by Justice Muzamiru Mutangula Kibeedi  have ruled that the Parliament breached it’s own rules of  procedure as the existence of quorum at the voting stage means the bill receives the majority  or sufficient number of votes in order for it to be lawfully passed. 

“From the review of the Hansards of 18th, 19th and 20th, 2014, it is my finding that the Petitioner has a valid complaint. Before a vote could be lawfully be taken by Parliament , Rule 23 (3) of 2012 Rules of Procedure of Parliament required the Speaker to ascertain whether the Members present in the House form a quorum for the vote to be taken,” said Mutangula Kibeedi.

Consequently, the Justices have declared the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Control Act of 2016 as null and void and accordingly ordered the government to pay the farmers costs they have spent on this petition.

One of the lawyers of the Petitioners Stanley Okecho has indicated that effective today the police should stop arresting people in possession of drugs and narcotics classified under the Act which has been nullified.

The judgement of the constitutional court effectively makes null and void the entire act from being enforced.

Constitutional Court throws out weed, Mairungi enforcement law