Leaders in Pader district have expressed concern over the growing trend of growing marijuana in charcoal burning areas.
The LCIII Chairman of Angagura sub-county, Stephen Freddie Okello, says that many charcoal burners plant marijuana where they formally burned charcoal and often pack them in sacks to disguise them as charcoal. Okello says this has increased the number of people who smoke marijuana as well as drug-related crimes.
He explains that people who smoke marijuana are all over the sub-county, adding that the presence of charcoal dealers has now become a big problem in the sub-county.
Willy Okwara Obbo, the sector commander of greater Atanga and Officer in Charge of Atanga Police Station says drug-related crimes are one of the major issues the police in the sub-counties of Ajan, Laguti, Atanga and Angagura are dealing with.
Obbo reiterates that the marijuana business was brought by charcoal dealers from other districts outside northern Uganda because it thrives in places where charcoal was burned.
Obbo says the availability of marijuana in the district has led to an increase in rape cases. He, however, says although there have been some arrests and prosecution, it is not easy to follow the cases or state the prevalence in terms of statistics.
He notes that punishing those who commit such crimes is complicated because victims only report and do not produce witnesses, give enough evidence or follow the matter to the final stage of prosecution.
Marijuana according to Ugandan law is a narcotic, and its use, production and cultivation, possession and trafficking is crimes.
Section six of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Control Act no. 3 of 2016, stipulates that anyone who smokes, inhales, sniffs or otherwise uses any narcotic shall be liable on conviction to a fine of between 480,000 and 2.4 million Shillings or to imprisonment of between one to five years, or both.
Despite the punitive law, a 2019 report by New Frontier Data, a U.S-based firm that analyses global trends in the cannabis industry shows that an estimated 2.6 million Ugandans consume narcotic drugs. This figure represents 5.6 per cent of the population