The strict drug laws of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have become well known – and largely controversial – among people from around the world. However, the state has now announced the easing of some of these rules.
According to The New Arab, the changes include a relaxation of penalties for travellers who are found arriving in the country with products containing THC – the main psychoactive compound found in cannabis.
Those found with items containing cannabis compounds will reportedly no longer be incarcerated if it is their first offence. Instead, authorities will confiscate and destroy the products.
Prior to the changes, travellers found with cannabis-based products and even some medical products that are legal in other countries could face trafficking charges and years in prison.
The arrest and incarceration in Dubai of a British children’s football coach for the possession of a vape oil containing CBD gained massive media attention this year. Twenty-four-year-old Billy Hood was sentenced to 25 years in prison with charges of the possession, trafficking and sale of an illegal drug.
Mr Hood is still in custody in Dubai as his parents marked his 25th birthday last week with demonstrations appealing for his release. With the new changes to drug laws, it is hoped that others won’t face the same treatment and appeals for the release of current prisoners will be successful.
Other reported changes include a reduction in minimum sentencing from two years to three months for first-time time drug offenders. Those convicted of some drug charges will also be rehabilitated at a detention facility separate to other offenders.
The reforms to the UAE’s drug laws come as part of a wider overhaul as the country welcomes 50 years since its founding. The New Arab reports that the reforms are part of wider efforts to boost the nation’s image as an attractive cosmopolitan hub for tourists.
Westerners have often been caught out by UAE laws – which are an interpretation of Islamic law – as many offences are not considered crimes in most Western countries.