UAE: Highlights on Penalties for Use, Possession of Narcotics and Illegal Substances

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October 02, 2021

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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. In this article, we will highlight the main provisions of the UAE drugs law and the applicable penalties for violations.

The UAE issued a new law on narcotics and psychotropic substances in 2021. This law is called the Federal Decree-Law No. 30 of 2021 On Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances (‘Narcotics Law’). The Narcotics Law criminalizes the import, export, manufacture, production, possession, acquisition, and bringing in of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, as well as all the other types of activities and acts in connection therewith (Articles 10 and 11). The narcotics law categorizes drugs into two categories:

  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.

  2. "Psychotropic Substances" mean any of the substances, natural or synthetic, in Schedules 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the Narcotics Law, such as butalbital, barbital, aminorex, ethinamate etc.

Provisions To Prevent Medical Abuse of Banned Substances

Medical abuse of any narcotic or psychotropic drugs is curtailed in the UAE under Articles 34 and 37 of the Narcotics Law, which state that:

  • A pharmacy may not dispense any narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances except against a medical prescription from a treating physician licensed to practice the profession of medicine or veterinary medicine in the UAE. The pharmacy is prohibited from dispensing these substances if the percentage written in the prescription exceeds those indicated in Schedule 9 of the Narcotics Law;
  • The manager of a pharmacy is required to keep the medical prescriptions containing narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances, which indicate the date of dispensation and the entry number, in a register. It is also prohibited to repeat dispensing prescriptions for narcotics.

Penalties For the Use, And Possession of Narcotics and Illegal Substances in the UAE

  • For narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances specified in Schedules 1, 2 and 5 (except for item 29 of Schedule 1): A penalty of imprisonment for a term not less than three months or by a fine not less than twenty thousand dirhams and not more than one hundred thousand dirhams shall be imposed on whoever abuses in any way whatsoever, or personally uses in cases other than authorized, or doses exceeding those specified in the medical prescription, any of the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances listed in Schedules 1, 2, and 5, except for Item 29 of Schedule 1.
  • For plants listed in Schedule 4, except for Item 8 of Schedule 4/Part II: A penalty of imprisonment for a term not less than three months or by a fine not less than twenty thousand dirhams and not more than one hundred thousand dirhams shall be imposed on whoever abuses in any way whatsoever, or personally uses in cases other than authorized, any of the plants listed in Schedule 4, except for Item 8 of Schedule 4/ Part II.
  • For other narcotic or psychotropic substances or plants: A penalty of imprisonment for a term not less than three months or a fine, not less than ten thousand dirhams and not more than one hundred thousand dirhams shall be imposed on whoever abuses in any way whatsoever or personally uses in cases other than those authorized, the Narcotics stipulated in Item 29 of Schedule 1 or any of the plants mentioned in Item 8 of Schedule 4/ Part II.

Additionally, the penalty is imprisonment for not less than 7 years and a fine of not less than AED 100,000, if a person induces or incites another person to abuse or personally use drugs with an intent to harm, leading to an injury. In the case of serious harm, imprisonment is not less than 10 years and a fine of not less than AED 200,000. If the crime results in the death of the victim, the court can impose life imprisonment or a death sentence (ref: Article 49).

A person who manages, prepares, or sets up a place for the abuse of specified narcotics or psychotropic substances, shall be punished with imprisonment for not less than 10 years and a fine of AED 100,000. Penalties of life imprisonment and fines of not less than AED 100,000 will be imposed in case of a repeat offence.

It is also crucial to note that 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. As regards deportation, the court has the discretion whether to order the deportation of a foreigner or not, under Article 75 of the law.

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