United Arab Emirates to Relax Drug Penalties

Starting January 2, the United Arab Emirates will initiate criminal justice reforms including reduced penalties for travelers who arrive with products containing THC and reducing minimum sentences for first-time drug offenders.

Full story after the jump.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is relaxing penalties for travelers who arrive in the country with products containing THC, opting instead for confiscation of the food and drink products for first-time offenders, instead of incarceration, the Associated Press reports. The reforms were published Sunday in the UAE’s official gazette and take effect on January 2.

The new rules also reduce minimum sentences for first-time drug offenders from two years to three months and offer convicts rehabilitation at a detention facility separate from other prisoners. The new law also leaves the decision as to whether to deport foreigners caught with drugs up to the judge, rather than to automatically deport them.

In an editorial, The National described the reforms as part of “the biggest change to UAE laws in history” which were sparked by the 50th anniversary of the country’s founding.

“It is important to put these developments in their wider context; the past year has seen a flurry of reforms. In November of last year, new laws decriminalized suicide, changed regulations on alcohol consumption and boosted women’s rights, among others.” The National Editorial Board, Nov. 28, 2021

The criminal justice reforms include a minimum of six months in prison for individuals who repeat offenses within three years and a two-year minimum for third-time offenders.

Ahmed Ibrahim Saif, senior judge at the Dubai Civil Court and former chief justice of Dubai’s Criminal Courts, told The National that the changes reflect prioritizing reform and are in line with the UAE’s principles.

“…Offenders are given second chances and are spared the loss of successful futures and decent living they have in the country,” he said.

The prison term for drug trafficking a minimum of five years remains in place.



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