By Najibu Mulema

Khat (mairungi) growers in Wakiso District under their umbrella Wakiso Miraa Growers and Dealers Association Ltd, have petitioned the Constitutional Court seeking an interim order blocking Internal Affairs minister from prohibiting its growing.

The growers claim that the disputed act intended to prohibit the growing of mairungi is not backed by scientific evidence proving the plant as a narcotic drug.

Their petition follows the enactment of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act, 2014, which outlaws the growing of the crop in Uganda’s territorial boundaries.

Khat is a flowering plant native to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Among communities from these areas, khat chewing has a history as a social custom dating back thousands of years.

Khat contains a monoamine alkaloid called cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant, which is said to cause excitement, loss of appetite and euphoria.

In 1980, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified it as a drug of abuse that can produce psychological dependence although WHO does not consider khat addiction to be seriously problematic.The plant has been targeted by anti-drug organizations such as the DEA.

It is a controlled substance in some countries, such as Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States (de facto), while its production, sale, and consumption are legal in other nations, including Uganda, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen. Consumption of the plant’s leaves in its natural state is also permitted in Israel.