Marijuana, Khat Legalisation Swings as Mental Health Experts Warn Against Consumption


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The Executive Director of Butabika Hospital, Dr. Juliet Nakku, told the Parliamentary Committee on Defence, which is scrutinising the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Control Bill, 2023, that Marijuana and Khat should not be legalised because they can cause mental illness among consumers.

According to Nakku, Marijuana and Khat consumption cause mania, which is a form of severe mental illness that makes some people hyperactive, among others. She also revealed that the plant known as Khat (Mairungi) has no medicinal value, as claimed by people who support its deregulation.

“We did not find medicinal use of khat even though it’s claimed, and we therefore recommend that a public health approach be ensured,” she said.

On May 5, 2023, the constitutional court ruled that the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance (Control) Bill, 2016, which sought to regulate the cultivation of particular plants as well as the possession and trafficking of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, was invalid due to a lack of quorum.

The speaker of the 11th Parliament, Anita Among, however, guided the Attorney General, Hon. Kiryowa Kiwanuka, to re-introduce the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Bill, which legislators rejected.

However, while presenting before the same house committee on Defence and Internal Affairs, Internal Affairs Minister Kahinda Otafirire, a retired two-star military general, argued that Cannabis should also be deleted from the prohibited narcotics list.

He was backed by cultivators who appealed to the parliament to decriminalise the production, sale, and consumption of Khat, scientifically called Catha edulis, citing its potential financial and health benefits.

The ongoing debate surrounding drug legalisation has created a divide between health experts, cultivators, and consumers. On one side of the spectrum, there are those advocating for the prohibition of the substances, while on the other side, there is a growing movement pushing for their legalisation.

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