Members of the Chamber of Deputies want the Narcotics Drugs Act quickly passed, but are unwilling to ‘approve a bill that might compromise with the health of Rwandans’.
Narcotic drugs include cannabis or marijuana, Kanyanga, Muriture, among others.
The government is seeking regulated use of the drugs for medical purposes, but some MPs are describing the move as ‘dangerous’.
The lawmakers made their stand known during a plenary session, on Thursday, on the draft law regulating the production, processing, distribution and use of narcotics, psychotropic substances and precursors in Rwanda.
In particular, article two of the bill disturbed majority of the MPs, during the debate.
Part of the clause defines narcotic drugs as plants, medicines or a preparation forbidden on the national territory or any chemical whether from natural or synthetic origin, appearing on one of list approved by the 1961 Single Convention of New York.
It also defines hard narcotic drugs as those on a list provided for in the Convention on Narcotics of 1961 and the Vienna Convention on psychotropic substances of 1971 except cannabis.
The legislators say it only lists narcotic drugs like Heroin, Opium and Cocaine – all mostly found in the West, but entirely ignores those found in Rwanda.
Lawmakers Desire Nyandwi, Abbas Mukama, Connie Bwiza said that as the country domesticates international conventions it signed, it should not take light problems of drugs that are uniquely local or regional.
“There are drinks that are found in Rwanda but not in Europe or in America. Drinks like Muriture (a local gin) which I have seen on TV. There are drinks that people drink and go crazy. This is Rwandan, not a European, or American or Chinese,” said Mukama.
Muriture is made from soap and other substances.
“We are lawmakers and we cannot accept to give a blank check to these people making the drinks like Muriture and Kanyanga that are destroying our youth,” Bwiza said, adding that legislation against these substances was required.
“Every day we hear that security organs fail to act because there is no law that punishes those involved,” she said.
Police Spokesperson, Supt Theos Badege, told The New Times that the main challenge is related to checking cross-border trafficking of the drugs.
“Otherwise, the country is at a level where we do not produce them but they are brought in from neighboring countries,” said the police publicist.
“The strategy we have adopted to counter this is to deal more with our neighboring countries so as to curb this.”
He said that in case where the drugs have already been sneaked into the country, consumption is checked by community policing networks whereby the “groups of traffickers are infiltrated.”
Care must be taken, MPs noted, not to undermine international standards even when faced by a national problem.
At Parliament, Health Minister Dr Agnes Binagwaho said that all the narcotic drugs are dangerous but at varying levels, adding that some are used for medical purposes.
“Some of those substances are used in medicine, like when we give you an aesthesia to make your pain go, to allow an operation. Morphine is a drug but we have to give you when you are operated on. If not, the pain will kill you,” Binagwaho said.
Nonetheless, Parliament voted for the bill to go back to a standing committee for further scrutiny, before it is returned to the plenary.
However, Nyandwi observed that the lawmakers were not against the bill in its entirety, but were interested in passing a more appropriate legislation.
Article seven of the bill states that authorization of production, distribution and use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances shall be allowed use but limited to medical and research purposes only.
The draft bill was presented to the Chamber of Deputies by the former Minister of Health, Amb. Dr Richard Sezibera, before he became the Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC)