Ringing in the Change

The UAE legal system has always adopted globally accepted best practices when it comes to the issue of drug abuse. This approach is again witnessed in the newly effected Federal Law No. 8 of 2016, the new drug law, amending Law no. 14 of 1995 as relevant to drugs. This law was issued on 18 September 2016 and came into force on 18 October 2016. It organizes the rules relating to use and possession of various kinds of drugs in the UAE. In this feature, Dr. Hassan Elhais, Legal Consultant at Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants, tells us about some key features of this law.


Article 27 of the new law prescribes the duties of a pharmacist. According to Article 27 a pharmacist has to keep records of the drugs provided, when it was given, and the dosage given. Article 27(2) states that the competent authority in UAE will lay down rules as to which drugs require a prescription and which do not. Additionally, Article 27 imposes other duties on pharmacists. For example, it mandates that a pharmacist shall not provide drugs twice for the same prescription unless allowed for under Article 27(3). Article 27(3) provides that the competent authority shall classify the types of drugs that should be given only once per prescription and the maximum volume of drugs that can be given for each prescription.


Article 33 directs that only licensed doctors who are authorized to prescribe such drugs can do so. Further, a doctor has to issue drugs in accordance with the allowed dosage limits as defined by the rules of the new law and other competent authorities.


The new law also lays down the punishments for unauthorized use or possession of drugs. If a person were found using or possessing drugs, which are listed in Tables 1, 2, 4 and 5 of the new law, without any valid reason, such person would face jail sentence of not less than two years and a fine not exceeding AED 10,000, which shall be at discretion of the court. The law also states that if a person is found using or possessing drugs listed in tables 3, 6, 7 and 9 of the new law, without any valid reason, such person would face jail sentence up to two years, deportation and a fine not exceeding AED 10,000, which shall be at discretion of the court. The drugs are classified into tables in accordance with provisions of the law, depending upon their nature and type. The tables are always subject to updates to include/amend the classification.

It needs to be mentioned here that as per Article 40, if a person is caught in possession or use of drugs listed in Table 1 of the new law without prescription, but if it is proven that it was for treatment purposes, the applicable punishment would be a fine of AED 1,000 to AED 10,000. Similarly, Article 40 also states that the same punishment would apply if found that the person had a prescription but used a higher dosage of the drug.

The new law states that the court has the right to order any of the following in case it is observed that a person has used any drug listed in Tables 1-8:

• To put the accused in an addiction treatment unit as per Article 4 of the law;
• To put the accused in a rehabilitation center as per Article 4 of the law
• To be fined; and
• To engage in community service.

One of the most important gifts of the new law is Article 43(1). It states that if a doctor, or wife/secondary relative of a drug abuser brings the victim to the police/public prosecution/de-addiction center and asks for treatment, the victim shall not face any criminal charges. In such cases, victims will be treated and released upon full recovery. However, it needs to be noted that treatment should be done within two years and victims needs to strictly follow the rules of the deaddiction center. In case they do not follow the plan given to them they might not get the benefit afforded under Article 43. In addition to the above, victims also needs to surrender all drugs they have in their possession.

Another important feature of the law worth mentioning is that any person who refuses to do a drug test after being requested by the official authorities to do so shall face a punishment of jail sentence of not less than two years and a fine of up to AED 10,000.

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