All citizens, residents and tourists to the United Arab Emirates must be aware of the non-tolerance for drugs in the region. The UAE has a strict drug policy and laws in place which enforce ‘zero tolerance’ for drugs. In this article, we would highlight the main provisions of the UAE drugs law and the applicable penalties for violations.

The Federal Law no. 14 of 1995 on the countermeasures against narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances ( ‘ Narcotics Law’) criminalizes the procurement, import, export, manufacture, extraction, separation, production, possession, acquisition and abuse of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, as well as all the other types of activities and acts in connection therewith (Article 7). The above clause however, does not apply to entities that are specially licensed in handling such substances.

The narcotics law categorizes drugs into two categories of:

  1. Narcotic drugs” mean any of the substances, natural or synthetic, in Schedules 1, 2, 3 and 4, annexed to this Law. These include substances such as cannabis, cocaine, heroin, methadone, nicomorphine, opium etc .. and
  2.  “Psychotropic substances” mean any of the substances, natural or synthetic, in Schedules 5, 6, 7 and 8 such as butalbital, barbital, aminorex, ethinamate etc.

Provisions to prevent medical abuse of banned substances:

Medical abuse of any narcotic or psychotropic drugs are curtailed in the UAE by virtue of article 24 and 27 of the Narcotics law which state that:

  • A pharmacy may not dispense any narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances except against a medical prescription from a treating physician licensed to practice the profession of medicine or veterinary medicine in the UAE;
  • The manager of a pharmacy is required to keep the medical prescriptions containing narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances, on which is indicated the date of dispensation and the number of the entry in the register.
  • Also, using a medical prescription more than once is prohibited.

Penalties for use, possession of narcotics and illegal substances in the UAE:

  • For, narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances specified in Schedules 1, 2, 4 and 5: A penalty of imprisonment for a term of not less than four years shall be imposed on anyone who has abused, in any way whatsoever, or personally used, in the circumstances other than those authorized, any of the narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances specified in Schedules 1, 2, 4 and 5. The court, in addition to the preceding penalty, may impose a fine of not less than ten thousand dirhams. (Article 39).
  • For, narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances specified in Schedules 3, 6, 7 and 8:A penalty of imprisonment for a term of not less than one year but not exceeding three years shall be imposed on anyone who has abused, in any way whatsoever, or personally used, in the circumstances other than those authorized, any of the narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances specified in Schedules 3, 6, 7 and 8. The court, in addition to the preceding penalty, may impose a fine of not less than ten thousand dirhams. (Article 40)
  • For narcotic or psychotropic substances or plant which are not set forth in the schedules: A penalty of imprisonment of up to one year shall be imposed on any one who abuses in any manner any narcotic or psychotropic substance or plant which is not specifically set forth in the schedules to the narcotics law if  such substance causes narcosis or any other adverse effect to the mind. (Article 41)

Higher penalties are imposed on anyone who has induced or incited another person to commit any offences slated under the purview of the narcotics law. For ex-pats, along with the penalty, a deportation order will also be imposed along with a permanent travel ban restricting their entry into the UAE permanently. UAE is one of the few nations in the world that can impose even a death penalty for drug abuse. All in all, UAE means its zero-tolerance law for drug abuse, and there is strict adherence to the same in the region. Mere ignorance of this Law is not considered an excuse. Therefore, strict care should be taken primarily by tourists and new residents to ensure they make themselves well-acquainted with the narcotic law.

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