Until very recently, bringing any products, food or beverages containing marijuana, hashish, or THC into the UAE immediately counted as a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment and deportation. But a new law in the country now states that for first-time offenders, the act will no longer mean jail time. Instead—in the case of first-timers—the found items will be confiscated and destroyed.
The decision to respond to drug mishaps with more leniency was announced in the UAE’s Official Gazette, and will be effective come January 2, 2022. The change aims to prioritize health and safety over punishment, and facilitate offenders in recovering. However, there is some fine print to take note of here. According to the new law, first-time offenders can be sentenced to three months of prison or be fined between AED 20,000 and AED 100,000. Repeating the offense within three years makes one eligible for six months in jail or a fine between AED 30,000 and AED 100,000. According to reports, the law gives the legislator freedom to decide if the offender should pay the fine or head to jail for first and second-time offenses. The third strike, however, will imply both, penalty and prison time: a minimum fine of AED 100,000, along with two years behind bars. There are currently also plans to replace prisons for such instances with special centers that will provide treatment and rehabilitation programs, along with family, occupational and social integration activities.
This new change in law will help bring flexibility to the UAE’s legal system, recognizing that not every case is identical. It will come in especially handy in cases of the use of controlled medication. The law will now give patients a second chance if they are unable to provide an official prescription.
Along with this, the UAE has also put in place a series of new formats and laws in time with its 50th anniversary, all in favor of its growth over the coming years. Come January 2022, weekends in the country will fall on Saturdays and Sundays for the public sector, allowing the Emirates to match its schedule with international markets. Another big change, announced back in 2020, was to allow unmarried couples to live together legally.