UAE eases drug laws: No more jail for those bringing in THC
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The United Arab Emirates has eased some of its harsh drug laws, relaxing penalties for travelers who arrive in the country with products containing THC, the main intoxicating chemical in cannabis.
The new law, published Sunday in the UAE’s official gazette, says people caught carrying food, drinks and other items with cannabis into the country will no longer land in prison if it’s their first time. Instead, authorities will confiscate and destroy the products.
The law marks a noteworthy change for one of the world’s most restrictive nations when it comes to importing common drugs for personal use, from cannabis to over-the-counter medications like narcotics, sedatives and amphetamines. The country strictly prohibits the sale and trafficking of drugs, with drug use punishable by four years in jail.
Other changes include reducing minimum sentences from two years to three months for first-time drug offenders and offering convicts rehabilitation at a detention facility separate from other felons. Foreign drug users who are caught are typically deported to their home countries after imprisonment, but the new law leaves that decision up to the judge.
The reforms come as part of a wider legal overhaul announced as the UAE celebrates a half-century since its founding and seeks to boost its image as a cosmopolitan hub attractive to tourists and investors. For decades, the nation’s penal code, based on Islamic law, or Shariah, has routinely landed expats and tourists in jail for offenses that few Westerners would otherwise consider crimes.
British football coach ‘tortured’ in brutal Dubai prison after 25-year sentence for CBD oil
A British football coach jailed for 25 years in Dubai over possession of CBD vape liquid is being “tortured” in prison, a friend of his has alleged.
Billy Hood, 24, was found guilty of possession, selling and drug trafficking after police found cannabis vape juice in his car on 31 January.
In the UK, CBD oil is legal as it contains only trace amounts of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC.
But the United Arab Emirates – where Mr Hood, from west London, had moved to in 2020 to work as a children’s football coach – has a zero-tolerance approach to all cannabinoids and psychoactive drugs.
Sentences for drug trafficking offences can be as severe as the death penalty, and possession of the smallest amount of illegal drugs could result in at least four years in prison, the UK Foreign Office website says.
Mr Hood told campaign group Detained in Dubai that police had unexpectedly turned up and demanded to search his home and car. He also submitted to a voluntary drugs test which came back negative.
He claimed the oil was left by a friend who had been visiting from England two weeks earlier.
Dubai police are thought to have singled him out after monitoring WhatsApp messages and looking for words related to drugs, such as CBD, the abbreviation for cannabinol.
A week before Mr Hood’s arrest the friend who owned the vape liquid sent him a message telling him he had forgot it in his car.
Officers then took Mr Hood to a police station and kept in a cell for 14 days “without any hygiene products”, the BBC reported.
This month, he was was convicted by a court of drug trafficking with intent to supply this month, for which he received a 25-year prison sentence.
Now, he has reportedly told one of his friends that he is being tortured at the Al-Barsha prison in Dubai.
Alfie Cain, a football agent, claimed that Mr Hood had been beaten for five days as officers from Dubai’s CID tried to force him into confessing to drug crimes.
Mr Hood had only signed the drug trafficking “confession”, written in Arabic, because he was exhausted and in pain, and because officers said they would stop beating him if he did, it was alleged.
Mr Cain was quoted by The Sun as saying: “It’s been bad in Al-Barsha, I’m not going to sugar coat it.
“When they took him to the CID drugs unit they beat him for an entire five days, he told me police officers tasered him, slapped him in the face and all they fed him was bread and little bit of water. He was basically tortured and put in a cell with 30 other people for five days.
“Billy said they told him he could go home if he signed the paper, that’s why he gave in and signed that piece of paper in Arabic he had no idea what he signing, but he just wanted to make it stop.”
Radha Stirling, founder and CEO of pressure group Detained in Dubai, which is helping the Hood family, said that forced and coerced confessions are common in Dubai.
She described his treatment and sentence as “extreme” for “having an oil that can’t even get you high”.
Ms Stirling added that possession of CBD oil would only result in a sentence of a couple of years at maximum, but that Mr Hood’s sentence was 25 years because of the charges of trafficking and selling.
Mr Hood’s family has set up a GoFundMe page to pay for legal fees, which has so far raised almost £15,000.
On the fundraising page, it says: “He will be released in 10 days or maybe 10 years. At the moment we just don’t know.”
Mr Hood’s family are appealing to the UK and UAE government to intervene in the case.
His mother Breda Guckion told the BBC: “I have hidden myself away, crying and crying when I imagine what our sweet boy is going through. It is the worst stress I’ve ever been through and I feel helpless.”
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in