Billy Hood claims he was forced to sign a confession in Arabic despite not speaking the language. UAE Defies Global Trend Towards Cannabis Liberalization As the cannabis industry is growing across much of Western Europe and North America, businesses would be wise to familiarise themselves Even though non-essential travel is suspended at the time of this writing (as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic), we hope to get back to traveling in no time.
Football coach appeals 25-year Dubai jail term over CBD vape oil
Billy Hood from Notting Hill, west London, was arrested on 31 January, shortly after moving to the country.
The 24-year-old claims he was forced to sign a confession written in Arabic despite not speaking the language.
An appeal hearing at Abu Dhabi Court has been set for 30 November.
Mr Hood, who played semi-professional football for Kensington and Ealing Borough FC, told campaign group Detained in Dubai that police had unexpectedly turned up and demanded to search his home and car.
He told the group he was taken to a “police station and kept in an isolation cell for 14 days without any hygiene products”.
Mr Hood claimed the oil was left by a friend who had been visiting from England two weeks earlier.
But he claimed he was forced to sign a confession after being pressured by local law enforcement.
This month he was convicted by a court of drug trafficking with intent to supply.
Detained in Dubai chief executive Radha Stirling said: “Billy has already spent a horrendous nine months in a Dubai jail notorious for human rights violations after being forced to confess to serious crimes in Arabic.
“Adding yet another delay to his freedom and the review of his defence evidence is gutting to the family and to Billy. Every day an innocent man spends a day in prison is a travesty.”
Vaping cannabidiol (CBD) oil is legal in the UK and has become extremely popular – typically used to relieve pain, anxiety or stress.
The Foreign Office advise there is a “zero-tolerance for drugs-related offences” in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Sentences for drug trafficking can include the death penalty and possession of even the smallest amount of illegal drugs can lead to a minimum four-year jail sentence.
In a statement the UAE’s public prosecution said: “Mr Hood was convicted based on evidence including the items found in his possession, information on his phone, third party statement, and his own confession.
“Mr Hood had access to an English interpreter at all relevant stages, including his questioning, confession, and trial.
“He was represented in his trial by a defence lawyer whom he selected. The UAE provided full access to Mr Hood for UK diplomatic and consular representatives, who visited him in custody.
“Mr Hood has since appealed the initial ruling in accordance with UAE law and will receive a hearing at Abu Dhabi Court. At all times, Mr Hood has been treated in accordance with the UAE law and applicable international standards.”
UAE Defies Global Trend Towards Cannabis Liberalization
As the cannabis industry is growing across much of Western Europe and North America, businesses would be wise to familiarise themselves with the UAE framework to avoid any unintended consequences as seen in the recent case of Billy Hood (see here). The UAE maintains a strict zero tolerance policy on the use of cannabis as further explained below.
- Federal Decree-Law No. 30/2021 On Combating Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances (the “Law“).
The Law prohibits the procurement, import, export, manufacture, extraction, separation, production, possession, acquisition and abuse of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Cannabis is specifically mentioned and its definition includes cannabis-derived products (including but not limited to hemp, hemp seeds, and THC and CBD-related products).
The Law does allow for the use of cannabis for medical purposes strictly and as long as it is prescribed by a licensed physician in the UAE. Clinical trials can also be conducted, however only controlled medical applications of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances may be administered for scientific research and this must approved by the Ministry of Health and Prevention. The private and public sector are prevented from growing, manufacturing and selling cannabis products for recreational purposes but it may be imported for medicinal purposes. Under the Law, cannabis products may be imported into the UAE but this will require a written permit signed by the director of the importing company and in the format prescribed by the relevant UAE competent authority.
As a result, the feasibility of marketing even medical cannabis in the UAE is currently very low.
At the moment, there is no distinction between cannabis and hemp. However, there is an exemption for hemp seed oil (not hemp seeds), as hemp seed oil is permitted for use in the UAE. The Dubai Municipality confirmed in a news article published in January 2019 that the sale and purchase of hemp seed oil is legal, and hemp seed oil can be found in cosmetics and health care products sold in the UAE. The extraction process used for hemp seed oil (similar to olives and coconuts) means that it does not have narcotic properties and as such its use is permitted.
Penalties under the Law
The Law provides for the following penalties:
- If found in possession of cannabis, a first time offender may be to sentenced to imprisonment between three months and up to one year and given a fine of an amount between AED 20,000 (approx. USD 5,400) and AED 100,000 (approx. USD 27,000). The UAE courts have the discretion to exchange punishment for first-time offenders with treatment in specialized rehabilitation units to be established across the UAE under the Law.
- Repeat offenders will have increased punishments ranging from 6 months to 2 years imprisonment and fines between AED 30,000 (approx. USD 8,000) to AED 100,000.
- If found to be selling or distributing cannabis in the UAE, a penalty of imprisonment for a period of not less than 10 years and not more than 15 years will be imposed on offenders and the individual will also face a fine of not less than AED 100,000. For repeat offenders the penalty will be increased to life imprisonment (25 years) and another fine of AED 100,000.
- For causing harm to another, the penalty is imprisonment for no less than 7 years and a fine of no less than AED 100,000. In the case of serious harm, imprisonment is no less than 10 years and a fine of no less than AED 200,000 may be imposed.
- Any non-UAE national found guilty of the aforesaid crimes will likely be deported after serving the prison sentence.
- Under the Law, drug trafficking or causing the death of the victim through drugs is punishable by an imprisonment of 25 years or in extremely rare cases by death (usually executed by firing squad). In February 2020 four men were sentenced to death for smuggling heroin into the UAE (see here).
In looking towards the future, it is clear that the UAE will still maintain a strict policy on cannabis as evidenced by the imprisonment of the British football coach Billy Hood (see our blog post on this case). Furthermore, the marketing of cannabis for medicinal products will still be of limited value in light of the current framework. For further information please contact Laya Aoun of our Dubai office.
Can You Take CBD Oil Into Dubai?
Even though non-essential travel is suspended at the time of this writing (as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic), we hope to get back to traveling in no time. A lot of countries have laws that enable tourists to bring their CBD products and medical marijuana in order to treat medical conditions, or just help them fall asleep easier.
But are CBD products legal to bring in every country? The answer is no.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a popular tourist destination for people all over the world. They include the seven emirates – Abu Dhabi, Umm al-Qaiwain, Fujairah, Ajman, Ra’s al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Dubai. The emirates have been major tourist destinations since the 1990s, especially the capital Dubai. So, let’s get into the subject of bringing CBD oil into UAE, with a focus on Dubai, and answer the “Can you take CBD oil into Dubai” question.
What’s CBD Oil?
CBD oil is a product made from the flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant. It’s one of the two main cannabinoids found in weed – cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). As opposed to THC, CBD doesn’t cause psychoactive effects nor intoxication.
CBD is consumed by medical marijuana users to help with depression, insomnia, chronic pain, anxiety, and other conditions, including preventing seizures. While the use of CBD and medical marijuana are gaining in popularity in the United States, the UAE is a whole other topic.
Can You Bring CBD Oil to Dubai (UAE)?
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has one of the strictest policies when it comes to possession, consumption, and transportation of illegal drugs. In the UAE, CBD oil is considered a drug, similar to cannabis. The same goes for Dubai, the most populated city in the UAE, as well as the other emirates.
So, if you’re planning a first-time trip to Dubai, you should know that you can get in trouble with the Dubai police if you’re found in possession of CBD. Emirati authorities even see the presence of drugs in the bloodstream as possession and you could face a jail sentence of up to four years if found with even trace amounts of illegal substances in your possession, or in your blood.
In 2019, a British tourist got a 10-year sentence for drug trafficking into Dubai. And that isn’t the only case. Last year, an Asian smuggler was arrested at the UAE airport for possession of 6 kg of cannabis and was convicted to 10 years in jail as well as a fine of Dh 50,000 ($13,612).
Moreover, according to the UK’s Foreign Office (FCO), trafficking large amounts of drugs can lead to the death penalty sentence, which is a legal penalty in the UAE. For that reason, the Foreign Office advises against bringing even the smallest amount of CBD to Dubai.
What About Transit Tourists?
Even transit tourists can’t escape the excellent technology and security at UAE airports. Transit tourists carrying even residual amounts of drugs will be arrested by local police and will be sent to court. Just the presence of the letters C-B-D on the packaging may be reason enough for you to be arrested by Emirati authorities.
Can CBD Oil Be Shipped to the UAE?
The law is the same when it comes to ordering hemp oil online, it’s illegal. So, you won’t be able to order CBD and have it shipped to Dubai if you’re travelling there. This also applies for skin care products and soaps that contain CBD oil as an ingredient.
What About Other Cannabis Products?
Hemp Seed Oil
Hemp seed oil is different from CBD oil. The latter contains a higher concentration of CBD, while the former comes from the small seeds of the plant and it doesn’t contain any CBD. As such, hemp seed oil is legal for sale and purchase in Dubai in the form of both health care and cosmetic products since 2019.
CBD Capsules, Edibles, and Gummies
CBD capsules, edibles, and gummies are also illegal in Dubai. If you’re found in possession of products that contain CBD as an ingredient, you’ll face serious jail time.
While vaping devices and e-cigarettes are legal to sell in shops in the UAE for people over 18 since April 2019, CBD cartridges are illegal. Given that the law was passed for allowing the sale of vape pens, a lot of foreign tourists were arrested for having CBD oil inside their vape pens instead of tobacco just in the first quarter of 2019.
Dubai’s Possession Laws
As we’ve previously said, the smoking tolerance level in Dubai is zero, so you can face a sentence for possession as low as 2 years, and as high as a capital punishment, depending on the amount of cannabis you’re caught with. Foreigners have an even bigger chance of being considered a threat by local law enforcement.
To Sum It Up
In the last few years, CBD has gained in popularity and it’s included in a lot of products ranging from snacks to cosmetics and medical marijuana remedies. But in some places in the world, it’s still against the law to use or possess such products.
CBD oil isn’t legal in Dubai, nor is it legal in any of the seven emirates to buy, sell, cultivate, or use. Any of these actions could lead to severe punishment. Tourists who are planning to travel to the United Arab Emirates shouldn’t bring products that contain CBD oil or any other illegal drugs in the country. This includes skin care products as well as e-cigarette refills that may contain CBD oil and other illegal ingredients.
Doing so may result in imprisonment for minor possession, and capital punishment if you’re found with large amounts of cannabis or CBD products. For that reason, it’s best to stay on the safe side and maybe go to neighboring countries like Iran, Pakistan, and India, if you’re craving narcotic or psychotropic substances.