criminal law


October 21, 2019



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UAE nightlife may seem attractive on the outside yet could be dangerous on the inside. Like the rest of the world, UAE has also faced the social peril called the consumption of illegal drugs. As a countermeasure, the UAE has issued a new law on narcotics and psychotropic substances.

Overview of the New Law

The new law on combating narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances is called the Federal Decree-Law No. 30 of 2021 (also known as the ‘Narcotics Law’). The Narcotics Law criminalizes the import, export, transfer, buying, manufacture, 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. The Narcotics Law repealed the existing Federal Law No 15 of 1995 dealing with the same subject matter and came into force on 2 January 2022.

The Narcotics Law is a marked departure from the previous law, with a focus on rehabilitation and treatment of addicts (as opposed to pure penal consequences), the establishment of an anti-narcotics council and a change in the policy of mandatory deportation of foreigners in case of a breach.

Nevertheless, the country continues to have zero tolerance towards the usage of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

Criminal Lawyers of Dubai, now and then, encounter cases concerning the trading of illegal drugs and substances and through this article, outlines the key provisions of the Narcotics Law, and they can refrain from consuming recreational drugs, not only due to the legal repercussions but also because of its detrimental impact.

Using Drugs

Using narcotic or psychotropic substances for personal use could result in imprisonment and fines (Articles 41, 42, 43 and 44). That said, if the convict is a first-time offender, Article 45 of this law entitles the competent court to replace the penalties of imprisonment and fines by placing the convict in a rehabilitation unit.

In accordance with Article 5 of the Narcotics Law, specialized units serving as rehabilitation and treatment centres for addicts of narcotics and psychotropic substances are to be established by the Ministry of Health and Community Protection. Article 6 of the Narcotics Law further states all information related to the affairs of the addicts and abusers confined to these units will be confidential and disclosure or broadcast of such information is prohibited unless required by law.

It is also important to note in accordance with Article 96 of the Narcotics Law, bringing in, importing, transporting, possessing, or acquiring foods, beverages, or any products that contain Narcotics or Psychotropic Substances listed in the schedules of the law will not be considered with the intention of abuse or personal use when the person coming from abroad is arrested for the first time at the entry points approved by the state. Having said that, the authorities will seize the products and take measures to prevent their leakage into the country.

Import & Export of Drugs

Import, export and transportation of narcotic drugs invite much stricter penalties as compared to the possession and consumption of drugs for personal use. 

Article 10 of the Narcotics Law states:

“1. It is prohibited to import, export, transport, produce, manufacture, bring in, possess, or acquire any of the Narcotics or Psychotropic Substances listed in Schedules 1, 2, 4/Part I, and 5 attached to this Decree-Law, or carry out other types of activities and acts in connection therewith. 

2- It is permissible to carry out controlled medical uses and scientific research on the substances listed in Schedules 1, 2, 4, and 5 attached to this Decree-Law, with the knowledge of the specialised scientific authorities to be determined by a decision of the Minister of Health and Community Protection in coordination with the Ministry of Interior, and in accordance with the conditions and procedures issued by a Cabinet decision.”

Article 11 of the Narcotics Law also states the following:

“It is prohibited to import, export, transport, produce, manufacture, bring, possess, or acquire any of the Narcotics or Psychotropic Substances listed in Schedules 3, 6, 7, and 8 attached to this Decree-Law or carry out other types of activities and acts in connection therewith except in the authorised cases and under the conditions stipulated in this Decree-Law.”

According to Schedule 10 of the Narcotics Law, violating the provisions related to Articles 10 and 11 would result in penalties of not less than 7 or 10 years of imprisonment (depending upon the narcotic/psychotropic substances), as well as fines. Depending upon the weight of the drugs, the accused may be liable for life imprisonment as well.

Article 57 of the Drug Law further provides that if the crime related to violations of Article 10/1 is committed with the intent of trafficking or promotion, or the accused belongs to a hostile group or organized gang,  or works for its benefit, the death penalty could be imposed.

Article 58 of the Drugs Law provides for the death penalty or life imprisonment for violating the provisions of Article 11 if the crime was committed with the intent of trafficking.


The new law provides a more lenient position related to deportation, with the courts having the discretion to order the deportation of foreigners in case of violation of the Narcotics Law.

Article 75 of the Narcotics Law states as follows.

“The court shall decide to deport the foreigner who has been convicted of one of the crimes stipulated in this Decree-Law, and the deportation ruling of the foreigner shall be mandatory if he is convicted of one of the crimes of abuse, personal use, possession or acquisition with intent to abuse.”

In conclusion, I advise you to review the guidelines issued by the UAE health department pertaining to the drugs allowed and restricted in the country in order to prevent hefty fines, punishments and deportation.

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What is likely the penalty for a student in Dubai who is caught by police and tested positive of drugs. Awaiting your best advice to go about it.
Please note that UAE has zero-tolerance in drug abuse matters and the penalty could be imprisonment leading to deportation as well as fine. There could be a possibility of reduced sentence considering that the offender is relatively young.   Dr. Hassan Elhais

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