What are the charges of trafficking and promoting narcotics substances in the UAE?

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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. 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 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.

What does drug trafficking involve?

Trafficking in drugs involves instances of production or distribution of drugs. This could involve the acts of manufacturing, purchasing, selling or delivery of narcotic or psychotropic substances that are banned in the UAE. This constitutes an even more dangerous crime than personal possession of drugs.

Charges for trafficking and promoting narcotics:

  • The penalty of imprisonment for a period of not less than ten years and not more than fifteen years and a fine of not less than twenty thousand dirhams shall be imposed on any person who has managed, prepared or set up a place for the abuse of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances provided for in Schedules 1, 2, 4 and 5( Article 46)
  • The penalty of imprisonment for a period of not less than seven years and not more than ten years and a fine of not less than twenty thousand dirhams shall be imposed on any person who has managed, prepared or set up a place for the abuse of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances provided for in Schedules 3, 6, 7 and 8’ (Article 46)
  • Imprisonment for a period of not less than ten years and not exceeding fifteen years and a fine of not less than fifty thousand dirhams and not exceeding two hundred thousand dirhams for drug trafficking or promotion (Article 48)
  • The penalty of imprisonment for a period of not less than seven years and not exceeding ten years and a fine of not less than fifty thousand dirhams and not more than two hundred thousand dirhams shall be imposed on anyone who has introduced, imported, exported, manufactured, extracted, separated or produced any of the narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances prescribed in Schedules 3, 6, 7 and 8, annexed to this Law (Article 49)
  • If any of the offences provided for in the preceding items has occurred with the intention of trafficking or promotion, the penalty shall be life imprisonment and a fine of not less than fifty thousand dirhams and not more than two hundred thousand dirhams (Article 40)

Cyber laws and Drug trafficking:

Pursuant to the cyber laws a punishment of temporary imprisonment and a fine not less than Dhs500,000 and not in excess of Dhs1 million or either of these two penalties can be imposed on a person who manages or runs a website or publishes information on the computer network or any information technology means for trafficking in or promoting narcotics or psychotropic substances and the like or the manner for their use or facilitates such dealing in instances other than those permitted by the law. (Article 36, Federal Decree-Law No. 5 of 2012 on ‘Combating Cyber Crimes’)

UAE is one of the few nations in the world that can impose even a death penalty for drug abuse. For expats or visitors breach of the drugs law would mean permanent deportation from the UAE along with higher penalties that can be imposed.  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.

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