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Dubai police not prosecuting cannabis in bloodstream

Detained in Dubai receives dozens of questions per month from prospective tourists concerned for local laws pertaining to drugs and pharmaceuticals
Dubai police not prosecuting cannabis in bloodstream cases

After the widely published case of Peter Clark, an American who faced prison over cannabis in his bloodstream (legally smoked in Las Vegas), Dubai police may have relaxed enforcement.

Detained in Dubai was founded in 2008 and has helped thousands of people who have fallen foul of Dubai’s often confusing laws in relation to prohibited substances. After securing Peter Clark’s freedom earlier this year, the organisation was contacted by another US citizen who received a more favourable treatment by Dubai police. “A young American man tested positive for possession of drugs (in his blood) at Dubai’s international airport”, reports founder Radha Stirling. “He had smoked Cannabis in the last thirty days in America but residue remained in his bloodstream. Unlike Peter Clark who faced conviction and jail time, Dubai police permitted him to enter and complete his short holiday but advised he would not be able to return in the future.

“Under the law, possession of hashish can warrant a substantial fine and deportation and/or a lengthy prison sentence. Although newly relaxed guidelines appear to have reduced sentencing to 1 year, visitors should not feel comfortable that that’s what they will get”, explains Stirling. “The arbitrary enforcement of the law as we can see in the distinction between Clark’s case and the second American is extremely confusing to travel advice bureaus and travellers alike.

Stirling's first case in 2008 involved a British national who was detained over alleged specs of marijuana dust in his suitcase. He was released following her campaign to free him.

“One month we have someone facing imprisonment and the next, we have someone in exactly the same situation permitted to continue their holiday but told not to return. If indeed our highlighting of Peter Clark’s case led to a new directive towards more relaxed police enforcement, why not go a step further and change the law itself? Marijuana residue remains in the system for potentially two months and many visitors to Dubai will partake in its consumption where it is legal abroad. It makes no sense to jail people for conduct outside of their borders but Dubai has a history of exporting laws abroad by convicting people for social media posts made outside of the UAE.

“The UAE has made a number of changes over the years as a direct result of our 15 years of our lobbying.

“For years, foreigners were jailed for cohabiting or sharing a hotel room with their partner. Eventually, sex outside marriage was legalised. In the meantime, visitors should refrain from breaking the strict letter of the law assuming that police will turn a blind eye. It’s exactly this contradiction that has lured tourists into a false sense of security that they won’t get in trouble.

“I fully expect that we will see more cases like that of Peter Clark. The thing about arbitrary enforcement is that it is arbitrary and we can not rely on it.

“Another trending issue is the widespread arrest of foreigners who have been in the vicinity of another individual who may be wanted by the police. This could be at a club, a party or someone’s home. If police raid the venue, they cast a wide net and will hold innocent bystanders for weeks or months without evidence of any wrongdoing. Bystanders can be charged and even convicted without evidence of drug related crimes that would see them with life sentences. Billy Hood and Andy Neal are prime examples of this kind of practice.

“Although we are definitely seeing Dubai police under instructions to ‘go easy’ on tourists who test positive for drugs on arrival, we can not rely on this. We continue to see unfair detentions and legal abuse. Once in the prison system, inmates are at serious risk of human rights violations and torture.”


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