criminal law


December 29, 2021



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Drug crimes are severely punished in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE has now recently introduced Federal Decree Law Number 30 of 2021 On Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances (New Drugs Law), promulgating the new drugs law in the United Arab Emirates, replacing the Federal Law No. 14 of 1995 on Fighting Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances.

Under the New Drugs Law, the ‘Narcotics substances’ refers to any substance, whether natural or synthetic, which are listed under schedules 1, 2, and 3 of the New Drugs Law and the ‘Psychotropic substances’ refers to any substance, whether natural or synthetic, which are listed under schedules 5, 6, 7, and 8 of the New Drugs Law (ref: Article 1).

What is Punishable:

The import, export, manufacture, transport, production, possession, and acquisition of narcotic drugs listed in Schedules 1, 2, 4, and 5, as well as all the other types of activities and acts in connection with such drugs, shall be prohibited (ref: Article 10), unless when the use is for controlled scientific or medical reasons, with the knowledge of the scientific authorities, and in accordance with the prescribed conditions.

Additionally, the procurement, import, export, manufacture, transport, production, possession, and acquisition of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances indicated in Schedules 3,6,7, and 8, as well as all the other types of activities and acts in connection therewith, shall be prohibited (ref: article 11).

Under Article 12 of the New Drugs Law, it is also not permissible to abuse narcotics or psychotropic substances in any form, or to use them personally except for treatment and according to a prescription from a physician issued in accordance with the provisions of Article 40.

The Punishment Imposed for Possession of Drugs:

Pursuant to Article 41 of the New Drugs Law, anyone who has abused in any way whatsoever or personally used (including possession), any substances mentioned under Schedules 1,2,5 except clause 29 from schedule 1 or any of the banned plants mentioned in Schedules 4, except clause 8 from part 2, schedule 4 may be punished with a minimum penalty of three months’ imprisonment or fine of not less than twenty thousand dirhams and not exceeding one hundred thousand dirhams.

Higher penalties (such as the imprisonment of not less than 6 months and fines between AED 30,000 to AED 100,000) will apply for a second-time repeat offence within 3 years from the date of committing the first act.

Committing the crime for the third time or more will result in imprisonment of not less than 2 years and a fine of not less than AED 100,000.

Similarly, abusing or personally using the narcotics mentioned in Item 29 of Schedule 1 or any plant mentioned in Item 8 of Part II, Schedule 4 will result in imprisonment for at least 3 months or fines between AED 10,000 to AED 100,000 (Article 42). Abusing or personally using, other than authorized, narcotics or psychotropic substances in Schedules 3,6,7 and 8 also entails punishment of 3 months imprisonment or fines between AED 20,000 to AED 100,000 (Article 43).

Additionally, a person who abuses personally uses, possesses or acquires with the intent to abuse, a plant or narcotics which is not mentioned in the New Drugs Law and which would cause sedation or any other mental harm, would also result in penalties. The penalties include imprisonment of up to six months or a fine between AED 20,000 to AED 100,000 (Article 44).

However, Article 45 of the New Drugs Law also entitles the court, in cases of first-time offenders, instead of imposing penalties prescribed in Articles 41, 42, 43, and 44 of the New Drugs Law, to order the confinement of the convict to an addiction treatment and rehabilitation unit.


The sensitivity of drug abuse cases and their potential in causing permanent damage to an individual and their families call for critical legal reforms which the new laws have delivered. Especially with the new provisions that allow for the court’s discretion to exchange the punishment imposed on an offender and to replace the same with rehabilitation treatment in the specialized units established under the provisions is both a compassionate and effective measure.

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