5 February 2013

Uganda: Marijuana Sale Booms in Kampala As Crime Goes Up

Spotlight — Drug dealers have become sophisticated and this has led to a rise in the sale of marijuana. They use code names and they have recruited food vendors to beat security, writes Chris Kiwawulo

The sale of marijuana in Kampala and its suburbs has drastically increased as the demand for the illegal drug is increasing.

Investigations have established that marijuana trade in the city centre is a sophisticated business with sellers behaving as discreet as possible to evade Police arrest.

Sunday Vision has learnt that besides known selling points like Arua Park and downtown Kampala, some women who vend food have been recruited in the murky trade. They hide marijuana in the buckets in which they carry plates.

Before Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) moved in to ban hawkers and roadside vendors, marijuana would be sold by these people alongside other legal commodities such as sweets, handkerchiefs, waragi sachets and cigarettes.

How it gets to Kampala

According to Jajja Sodde, a dealer who has since left the trade, marijuana is grown in the middle of forests, in banana plantations and in the middle of tall bushes. He says marijuana growers watch their plantations intently against intruders.

Marijuana is usually transported on trucks that carry beans, peas, maize and groundnuts. In the city centre, it is brought in polythene bags and backpacks ready for sale. Wrapping marijuana into sticks is usually done in small rooms within the city suburbs.

The dealers usually carry backpacks and stealthily distribute the marijuana at various distribution points throughout the city. Sources reveal that some Police constables are involved in the transportation and sale of marijuana, although the Police refutes the claim.

Investigations have also established that some marijuana sellers remove tobacco from its original cigarette packaging (paper) and replace it with crushed marijuana. They do this to confuse Police officers who regularly hunt them down.

Selling tactics

But, the seller can only serve this type of 'cigarette' to known daily customers and those who use coded language. One has to call out one of the names given to marijuana such as ladi, sada, omuggo or akacwiri.

Some simply pay and say "njagala kunyooka" (meaning I want to smoke). Here, the seller cannot make a mistake, they will stealthily give the buyer a marijuana stick.

Police intervention

The Police has carried out a number of operations in places where the marijuana business is booming and arrested several sellers and smokers, many of whom are incidentally linked to crimes like robbery and murder.

Police sources say on average, they arrest 50 to 60 people in connection with marijuana smoking and selling as well as other crimes in Kampala every month. Besides arrests, the Police are engaging in pro-active ways of stopping the sale and consumption of marijuana through community policing.

Stephen Musoke, the commissioner in charge of community policing, says they continuously carry out sensitisation seminars on radio stations and in the community, specifically targeting the youth who are more vulnerable.

The Police has also embarked on destruction of marijuana plantations in Kampala and in the districts of Wakiso, Mpigi and Kayunga, where marijuana was found to be grown on a large scale.

The plantation owners have been found to be the main suppliers of the marijuana sellers in the city centre. Marijuana is known to give people false confidence and they end up engaging in other crimes such as theft, robbery and rape, among others.

"When the youth take marijuana, it catalyses their criminal mind. They snatch people's valuables like women's handbags, phones in traffic jam and car parts," Jinja Road Police commander Wesley Nganizi said recently after an operation in which they arrested 22 hard-core criminals with several polythene bags full of dried marijuana, machetes and house breaking implements.

Nganizi said the thugs were operating in many parts of Kampala, including Jinja Road traffic lights, Industrial Area and the Golf Course, while some go as far as Kireka and Bweyogerere to rob.

What the law says

Smoking marijuana and selling it is illegal according to the laws of Uganda. The Police say whoever is arrested in possession of marijuana is charged with being in unlawful possession of narcotics contrary to section 47(1) and 61 of the National Drug Policy and Authority Act Cap. 206. Those found smoking marijuana are charged under section 48(a) and 60 of the National Drug Policy and Authority Act 206.

The most common form of cannabis used as a drug is the dried herbal form. The major psycho-active chemical compound in cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (commonly abbreviated as THC), although it contains 66 other cannabinoids.

The United Nations estimated that in 2004, about 4% of the world's adult population (162 million people) use cannabis annually and about 0.6% (22.5 million) use it on a daily basis. The possession, use, or sale of cannabis preparations containing psycho-active cannabinoids became illegal in most parts of the world in the early 20th century.

Since then, some countries have intensified the enforcement of cannabis prohibition, while others have reduced it. In some countries like Belgium, Argentina, Colombia and Australia, smoking marijuana is not illegal as long as it is smoked by adults.

Marijuana hotspots

Makerere Kivulu

Nakasero I Village

Nakivubo mews

The Old Taxi Park

Parts of Kisekka Market


Arua Park

Nsambya Railway Quarters


Kawempe playground

Makerere Kikoni



In figures

10 -Of the 20 patients admitted daily at Butabika Hospital, 10 are drug addicts.

60 - Police sources say on average, they arrest 50 to 60 people in connection with marijuana smoking and selling in Kampala every month.

22million -22.5 million people use cannibis on a daily basis in the world.

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