UAE eases drug laws: No more jail for those bringing in cannabis ingredient

UAE eases drug laws: No more jail for those bringing in cannabis ingredient

The UAE strictly prohibits drugs peddling or trafficking of drugs.

The UAE has eased some of its strict drug laws and lessened penalties for travellers, who arrive in the country with products containing Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active chemical in cannabis (hashish).

The new law, which was published in the Official Gazette of the UAE, states that people who are caught bringing food, drinks and items containing cannabis into the country will not go to prison, if it is proven that they were carrying those items for the first time. Instead, these items will be confiscated by authorities and later destroyed, the new law states.

The new law represents a significant change in one of the world's most restrictive countries concerning the import of common medicines for personal use, from cannabis to non-prescription drugs such as narcotics, sedatives, and amphetamines.

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The UAE strictly prohibits drugs peddling or trafficking of drugs.

The changes include lessening the minimum penalty from two years to three months for those who commit drug offences for the first time and admitting them to addicts’ rehabilitation centres to ensure their separation from other offenders. Foreign drug users who are arrested on charges relating to drug abuse are usually deported to their home countries after serving the imprisonment terms, but the new law has left the decision of deportation up to the judge who looks into the case.

These amendments come as part of a broader legal amending announced in conjunction with the UAE’s celebrations of its golden jubilee, as it seeks to reinforce its image as a global hub that attracts tourists and investors.

For decades, the country's penal code, which is based on Islamic law, was routinely applied to expatriates and tourists, who were imprisoned for crimes that few Westerners would consider crimes.

The new amendments, which will take effect as of January 2, 2022, came to balance between deterrent punishment and rehabilitation of the abuser. And this is described by legists as a legislative development in the concept of punishment, which has become entirely reformatory.

In accordance with these amendments, the mandatory deportation has been cancelled against a foreigner if he is convicted of a crime relating to drug abuse or personal use. The punishment will be replaced by admitting the convict in rehabilitation units for addicts, with the aim of giving the “patient” the opportunity to correct behaviour and receive treatment and rehabilitation instead of just imprisonment.

Article 45 of the Law by the Decree 30 of 2021 regarding combating narcotics and psychotropic substances states that the penalty stipulated in articles 41, 42, 43 and 44, can be replaced by admitting the convict in one of the treatment and rehabilitation units for addicts, in accordance with Article 5 of this law, after consulting the Public Prosecution.

The law has also preserved the dignity and reputation of the accused "patient," by adopting Article 6 of the law, which states that all data and information related to the affairs of addicts and drug users who are placed in the therapeutic unit as confidential. This data is prohibited in other than cases stipulated by the law from disclosing or broadcasting. Anyone who violates this article shall be punished with the penalties prescribed for this crime in Article 379 of the Federal Penal Code, which stipulates the punishment of imprisonment for a period of not less than one year and a fine of not less than Dhs20,000, or one of these two penalties. The penalty may be toughened up to imprisonment for five years if the offender is a public employee or assigned to a public service.

According to the new amendments, the narcotics and psychotropic substances possessed for personal use will be confiscated, and every shop prepared for the abuse of narcotics and psychotropic substances will be shut. In addition, those who have been convicted more than once in crimes relating to drug abuse will be suspended from driving any vehicle in accordance with Article 72. And those who have been sentenced to life or temporary imprisonment in one of those crimes shall be put under police surveillance after serving the penalty, for a period equal to the term of the penalty, or up to five years.

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