In recent years, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken great efforts to broaden its image of a petrol-state by reinventing itself as a vacation destination. Its capital city Dubai, features gleaming luxury hotel towers and night clubs that would rival any in the world. With that said, cannabis users may want to avoid the UAE due to its incredibly strict policy prohibiting all drugs, including cannabis.
At a minimum, they should plan trips to, or through the UAE very carefully. Even as the United States and other countries around the world straddle the line between cannabis decriminalization and legalization, the UAE remains steadfastly committed to not only cannabis prohibition, but draconian penalties for the use or possession of even miniscule amounts of cannabis.
How miniscule, you ask? In 2008, a British national was on a stopover in Dubai en route back home to England when trace amounts of cannabis invisible to the naked eye (with a total weight of less than .0003 grams) was found on his shoe during a routine inspection. He was sentenced to four years in jail for the infraction.
Complicating matters further, you don’t even have to be in actual possession of cannabis in the UAE to be jailed for it. In 2021, Peter Clark, an American national who had previously smoked cannabis legally in Las Vegas went to the UAE, where he was hospitalized with a bad case of pancreatitis. Doctors discovered traces of cannabis in his urine while reviewing the routine medical tests.
The doctors reported the test to the local authorities, which is a requirement under UAE law. Mr. Clark woke up handcuffed to his hospital bed after surgery. After being threatened with several years in jail, the charges were eventually dropped and he was deported back to the United States. Unfortunately for him, that wasn’t before he spent an estimated $50,000 on legal fees and a two-month hotel stay.
If Mr. Clark hadn’t been able to afford the hotel, he would have been held in a Dubai jail while awaiting trial. Many observers believe that without behind the scenes work from the American embassy, Mr. Clark would have been given a long jail sentence. Needless to say, if you don’t have the financial resources to foot a two month hotel bill, or a “powerful” passport from a nation that does lots of commerce with the UAE, you may not be so lucky.
There are even cases of job applicants going to the UAE and being locked up for failing pre-employment drug screenings. What all this means for cannabis users is that in spite of Dubai’s image as a glistening center of modern tourism, its retrograde drug laws should give you pause before visiting. There is always the hope that UAE will reconsider its policies, but until then, try Las Vegas for cannabis and excitement in the desert.
G13 Club is a private social club for medical and recreational cannabis users based in Barcelona. It is also a space for musical and artistic development that promotes a multitude of activities focused on the expression and exhibition of urban, hip hop, reggae and skate culture.