United Arab Emirates: drug reform and treatment programs aimed at satisfying investors and tourists

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In order to recognize that any drug use or possession should not be punishable by heavy prison sentences, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) creates amendments to long-standing laws this will focus on treatment rather than jail for new convicts for personal use and possession.

Located between the Muslim countries of Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar, a region known for its severe penalties for drug possession, the United Arab Emirates is loosening its stance on drugs, giving first-time offenders the opportunity to use and possession of personal narcotics to seek rehabilitative treatment.

The pioneering initiative of the United Arab Emirates, which is an elective monarchy formed 50 years ago from a federation of seven emirates made up of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain, signals the country’s desire to develop justice and public health.

The United Arab Emirates is also seeking to promote its image as a cosmopolitan place to tourists and investors, as it charts the next 50 years of its journey as an international destination for the world.

Dubai, a thriving tourist hub with a population of over 3 million, is well known for its luxury boutiques and vibrant clubbing scene. The city has increasingly become a vacation destination for Westerners, many of whom love to party. Yet Dubai is incredibly strict on intoxication (allowing alcohol consumption only in licensed areas like hotel restaurants and nightclubs) and has laws against public drunkenness, as well as zero tolerance for drinking and driving. Over the years, breaking these laws has put more than a few expats and vacationers in hot water.

Reported in The National News, Ahmed Ibrahim Saif, senior judge at Dubai Civil Court and former Chief Justice of Dubai Criminal Courts, said the changes to the UAE’s legal system were in line with the country’s principles of tolerance.

“In this recent change, reform is given higher priority, offenders get a second chance and are spared the loss of a prosperous future and a decent life that they have in the country,” Saif said.

The reforms come at a time when global drug use is reassessed and previously banned drugs, such as ketamine and cannabis, are legally used in greater numbers around the world.

The Khaleej Times reports that the UAE’s new law provides for the establishment of specialized treatment and rehabilitation centers, as well as a committee to oversee the rehabilitation units. The country’s new approach indicates a radical shift in vision from drug use as a crime to seeing it as a health issue.

The new changes to the law will come into force in the UAE in January 2022.

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