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Recently, the UAE government made a landmark amendment in its anti drug law by issuing the Federal Decree No. (30) of 2021. Over the last few decades, UAE has been looked upon as a country having the harshest drug laws with stringent punishments for the usage of cannabis to over-the-counter medications like narcotics, sedatives and amphetamines. The Federal law number (14) of 1994 on narcotic and psychotropic drugs was the principle legislation governing the same.

However, with the recent amendment, substantial relaxations have been provided and penalties are reduced to a very large extent. This new law decriminalised the use of cannabis for the first time offenders. In simple words, if a traveller enters the country with THC (intoxicating chemical in cannabis) through food, drinks or other items, it shall not be punishable. However, it is pertinent to note that this relaxation is only for the first time violators, and if a person repeats the same, he shall be strictly punished.

In case a person carries drugs for the second time, he shall be punished with a six month jail term and a minimum fine of AED 20,000 which can be extended up to AED 100,000. Additionally, If a person repeats the same offense in more than 2 instances, he shall be subject to a minimum jail term of 2 years and a fine of at least AED 100,000.

For the first time offender, the products carrying drugs will be confiscated and destroyed by the government officials and the offender shall be  kept in a specialised and rehabilitation center, which is solely established for this purpose. A supervisory medical committee shall be constituted to assess whether the impugned person is a repeated offender or not. All the personal information and records of the offenders will be kept strictly confidential.

This new law has given a discretion to the judge to determine whether a foreigner carrying drugs shall be deported to his/her home country or keeping him in the specialised rehabilitation centers.

With this recent amendment, the jurisdiction of Abu Dhabi Federal Court has been increased to a very large extent. Now, they have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and adjudicate all the cases relating to promoting drugs and child trafficking, irrespective of the place where the crime occurs in the country.

In short

The new law can be understood as a progressive step on the part of the UAE government in its series of overhaul legislative changes to make the country  a cosmopolitan hub for all the global investors and tourists. A good balance has been striked between relaxing penalties for first time offenders and harsh punishments for the repeated ones. This Law shall be operative from January, 2022.