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CS Linturi slams Nacada for classifying Miraa as a drug

Agriculture and Livestock Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi has put the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Nacada) on notice calling the State agency rogue for classifying miraa as a drug.

The minister said miraa and its variant muguka had been recognised as a crop by the Crop Act, 2013, and argued that Nacada could not arbitrarily take a different position from other government agencies.

Appearing before the Senate’s committee on Delegated Legislation yesterday, CS Linturi accused Nacada chief executive officer Victor Okioma of contradicting his predecessors and the government by declaring miraa a drug.

He argued that former Nacada bosses including Dr Frank Njenga and John Mututho had in the past agreed that miraa is a crop and not a drug, but that position has now been vacated by Mr Okioma.

“Nacada is a rogue for permanently giving inconsistent positions in regards to miraa. Dr Njenga and Mututho said miraa is not a drug and its sale can be authorised but the inconsistencies are brought about by the fellow who is there now,” said Mr Linturi.

Mr Linturi was appearing before the committee chaired by Tharaka Nithi Senator Mwenda Gataya which was considering the Crops (Miraa) Regulations 2023, aimed at promoting, developing and regulating the miraa industry.

He said the fight to have miraa recognised as a crop has been long-drawn and it is unfortunate that the current Nacada office holders are contradicting their predecessors.

The CS argued that the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act relied upon by Nacada only classifies cathinone and cathine, extracts of the crop, as a drug but not miraa in its natural form.

“We have gone through a lot to see two chemicals found in miraa, cathinone and cathine, removed from being classified as a drug in our laws and the issues have been addressed,” he said.

CS Linturi’s concerns comes after Nacada in May this year listed miraa among top drugs of abuse in the country together with alcohol and tobacco among 15-65-year-olds, with miraa or muguka users being more than 960,000.

The Nacada boss argued that miraa is a drug that “is responsible for many substance use disorders” as it contains psychotropic substances that make people addicted.

He said the agency would oppose attempts to have miraa value-added products such as juice and wine.

“There are people who are in rehabilitation centres for use of miraa. However, the most problematic khat is the type known as muguka,” Mr Okioma said.

“The position of Nacada is that miraa is harmful and muguka is even more harmful. This is why we are discouraging expansion of markets and are against attempts to process it into juices and wine. Unless they have found a way of removing the harmful constituents, we will oppose it,” he added.

However, Mr Linturi said President William Ruto’s government holds a different view and has embarked on a vigorous campaign to market the miraa as a crop.

He explained that the government is keen on opening new markets for miraa and even recently sent a delegation to Ethiopia, Yemen and Israel to explore available markets for miraa before the ongoing war broke out.

“The government has even set aside Sh130 million to support miraa farmers as we explore new markets for them,” said the CS.

He said in April, President Ruto was in Igembe North and one of his commitments was that he would help in the expansion of the miraa markets.

The visit by the President came a few months after Parliament passed the Miraa Regulations 2023 aimed at guiding the production, processing and marketing of the produce.

 

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