Ugandan police have deployed armed police personnel to guard licensed commercial marijuana farmers. According to Spy Uganda, they have discovered four foreign companies growing the herb for commercial purposes in Nakasongola and Kasese district farms.
Some of the firms which are growing Marijuana on over 7000 hectares include; Prime Ranchers, which is growing weed in Bamugolode village, Urban Properties in Nwoya district and Eximo Holdings in Kasese district.
Over 90 companies have so far applied for licenses from the government of Uganda to grow marijuana for exportation and medical research purposes.
The Uganda Investment Authority is yet to reveal the companies that have since been given licenses to grow marijuana.
However, while speaking about these particular firms, the police Anti-narcotics department head Tinka Zarugaba, said that “The firms were granted permission to start cultivating Marijuana as they process their licenses.”
The police Anti-narcotics department head Tinka Zarugaba added that; “The Anti-narcotics department is here to regulate the cultivation to ensure that the product is not diverted to illegal markets. We have deployed police at gardens, in transportation and where they process from.”
He, however, did not divulge details of the company owners. But it should be recalled that in 2018 an Israeli firm called Together Pharma secured a license to cultivate marijuana in Uganda for exportation to Canada and several other firms have reportedly got licenses to grow marijuana too.
All that notwithstanding, growing and selling marijuana in Uganda is illegal and attracts a fine of not less than Sh10m or a jail term of not less than five years.
Uganda started criminalizing drug use following this international trend and with the enactment of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act (NDPSA) has made strides towards being part of this global movement to suppress the use of drugs. The NDPSA came into force in 2016.
The NDPSA has a decided penal focus and does not prioritize the welfare of persons who use drugs. One of the primary aims of the Act is to give effect to punitive international conventions.
Along with the criminalisation of trafficking in narcotics drugs and psychotropic substances, the Act also criminalises the possession of these drugs and prescribes heavy penalties such as a fine of Ugx 10,000,000 (approx. USD 3,000) or three times the market value of the drug, whichever is greater, or imprisonment of a minimum of ten years or both such a fine and imprisonment.
The Act also criminalizes acts associated with narcotic drugs such as possession of any pipe or utensil for the illicit use of such drugs; ‘recruiting’ or ‘promoting’ the smoking, inhaling, sniffing or other use of such substances and owning, occupying or being ‘concerned in the management’ of any premises used for the cultivation, sale or manufacture of such substances.
The Act makes a measure of provision for the welfare of People Who Use and Inject Drugs (PWUIDs) by empowering the Minister of Health to establish ‘rehabilitation centers’ aimed at providing ‘care, treatment, and rehabilitation of persons addicted to narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances’.
The Minister is also empowered to appoint an ‘Advisory Committee for the Rehabilitation of Narcotic Addicts’ to advise the Minister on matters relating to the administration of the centers and the ‘care, treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts’.
The Act furthermore provides that a person may be committed to spending a part of their period of imprisonment in such a rehabilitation center upon conviction of an offense under the Act.