The High Court has released a 23-year old man who had been sentenced to ten years in jail after he was found guilty of exporting khat commonly known as Miraa/Mairunji worth Shs16.8m.
High Court judge Yasin Nyazi over turned a decision by the Entebbe chief magistrates’ court which had convicted Mayanja Peter saying the magistrate based on a law that has not yet been operationalised by parliament to make her decision.
Mayanja was arrested at the Entebbe airport in 2016 while he tried to exit 160kgs of khat commonly known as mairunji worth 16.8M shillings and was later sentenced to ten years in jail when he failed to raise a 13 million shillings fine.
However, on appeal of the decision at the high court, the decision and all proceedings that ensured in Entebbe have been nullified.
Justice Yasin Nyanzi made the decision after Mayanja’s lawyer Isaac Ssemakande and the state agreed that the clause relating to khat in the narcotic drugs act is still under inquiry and has not yet been operationalised by parliament.
The judge also issued warning to aviation police and any other authorities who are arresting, prosecuting and burning gardens of the plant, saying there is no law as yet.
While Khat is one of the scheduled plants under the Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substances Control Act 2015, it has not yet been prohibited or declared an illegal plant in Uganda.
A letter dated April 19, from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mike Chibita warned state prosecutors and attorneys against sanctioning charges on people found in possession of khat.
“It has come to our notice that a number of people are being arrested and charged with growing and dealing in Chatha-edulis (khat) commonly known as miraa. Although Sec.4 and 5 of the narcotics drugs and psychotropic substances, growing and dealing in Khat is not yet an offence as it hasn’t been criminalized by law,” the letter reads in part.
“You are therefore advised to stop sanctioning charges against persons found in possession of Chatha-Edulis or trafficking in the same until the minister (internal affairs) comes out with the regulations prohibiting growing and dealing in the same as required under sec 89 of narcotic drug and Psychotric substances (control), 2015,” the letter continues.