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A 24-year-old man from the U.K. has reportedly been sentenced to 25 years in prison in Dubai for possessing CBD oil. British football coach Billy Hood has been stuck in a Dubai prison since 2021, when he was caught and charged with CBD possession. How did this happen? UAE Defies Global Trend Towards Cannabis Liberalization As the cannabis industry is growing across much of Western Europe and North America, businesses would be wise to familiarise themselves

UK man sentenced to 25 years in prison for possession of CBD in Dubai, reports say

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A 24-year-old man from the U.K. has reportedly been sentenced to 25 years in prison in Dubai for possessing CBD oil.

Sky News and The Sun report the London man, Billy Hood, was working as a football coach in the United Arab Emirates when police there discovered four small bottles of CBD and a vape pen in his vehicle earlier this year.

As a result, Hood was arrested and subsequently convicted of drug trafficking with intent to supply earlier this month, the British outlets report.

Like THC, CBD is a compound found in cannabis plants, but it doesn’t produce a high like THC does. CBD is legal in the U.K., but the compound isn’t tolerated under the UAE’s strict drug laws.

According to Sky News, Hood claims a friend left the CBD bottles and vape pen in his car. After his arrest, the man says he was told he wouldn’t be released from his cell unless he signed a confession written in Arabic, and he was allegedly refused a translator. In the end, he did end up signing the confession.

The UAE government told Sky News that Hood had access to a translator at all times, and the ruling was made in accordance with the country’s laws.

Hood is now awaiting an appeal hearing.

Meanwhile, Hood’s loved ones are fighting to get him released and are urging the U.K. government to assist them.

Copyright 2022 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Brit sentenced to 10 years in prison in Dubai – for CBD oil

The laws and regulations surrounding CBD can sometimes be complicated and confusing, but they are usually not that scary.

When you live in Europe, USA or Canada, the worst thing that can happen if you accidentally break some laws regarding CBD is that your products will be confiscated and you might get a fine. Not great, but also not so bad.

  • A British national living in Dubai got arrested for CBD possession
  • He was sentenced for 25 years in prison
  • The sentence was reduced to 10 years
  • He is currently in prison, with no chance for release in the foreseeable future

However, even though CBD is legal and accepted in many parts of the world, there are still selected places where one can get into a lot of trouble if caught with Cannabidiol (CBD). For example, the approach toward CBD in the UAE is rigorous, and expats and tourists may pay a very high price for having any CBD products on them. This was the case with Billy Hood – a Brit sentenced to 25 years in prison for CBD vapes that were not even his.

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How is that possible, and could this happen to you?

Who is Billy Hood?

Billy is a 24-year-old football player and coach who moved to Dubai in 2020. Like so many other young internationals, Billy had hoped relocating to the UAE would be an excellent career move. The salaries of coaches in the UAE are much higher than in the UK, and jobs for internationals are widely available.

Shortly after moving to the country, Billy started working with children and teenagers as a football coach. As he settled in, some of his friends from the UK came to visit. Unfortunately, one of them brought some CBD vapes, which would turn out to be a huge mistake.

What happened to Billy Hood?

In 2021, Billy’s friend came to visit. Billy drove straight home after picking his friend up from Dubai airport. When he later left his apartment to fetch a charger from his car, he was met by local police who accused him of drug possession. The police proceeded to search his car, his flat, and Billy himself. He did not object, as he had nothing to hide and wanted to get this misunderstanding solved quickly.

Unfortunately, that is not what happened. Instead, the police officers found 4 small CBD vape cartridges in Billy’s car, most likely left behind by the friend who had visited Billy previously.

The police arrested Billy and accused him of possessing and selling drugs. It is believed that they based their accusations on his WhatsApp conversations that included some drug-related keywords, and which the police monitored.

After being detained, Billy was presented with confession documents which the authorities demanded he signs. His request to see a translation from Arabic to English was rejected. Instead, he was told that the only way to leave the detention was to sign a confession he did not understand.

Billy refused. He was then put in isolation without access to any hygienic products and remained there for 14 days. It was too much for him to handle. Finally, Billy broke and signed the untrue confession when pressured by the police again.

The confession was followed by a sentence of 25 years in prison. After Billy’s lawyers appealed to overturn the verdict, the sentence was reduced to 10 years. The decision was made without the court ever listening to the lawyer’s arguments or Billy appearing in court.

Is CBD legal in the UAE?

The UAE is one of the strictest countries in the world when it comes to drug laws. And according to the UAE – CBD is a drug.

Any drug possession is illegal in the UEA. It is even illegal to have drugs in your bloodstream. This includes drugs and medication consumed in a country where they are entirely legal.

Can someone from the UK or the EU be sentenced for CBD oil they purchased back home?

CBD, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid derived from a cannabis plant, is legal in many countries.

As it does not get users high, it is not considered a drug – as confirmed by the European Court of Justice ruling from 2020.

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CBD is a supplement with many potential health benefits, helping people cope with various symptoms of health issues every day. Yet, there is no global consensus on the legal status of CBD, and each country has its own rules and regulations. This even applies to countries within the EU.

When you travel with CBD, it does not matter what the laws are at the place of your departure. Instead, the CBD laws at your final destination (and transit, if you have one) are what matter.

Many people are not aware of these rules. As a result, they are often met with a fine and the confiscation of their products.

Yet, some countries have such strict drug policies that the punishment is much more brutal. UAE is one of those countries, and this is why Billy is currently in prison.

Are there other innocent internationals in prisons in Dubai?

The case of Billy is far from being the only one.

Detained In Dubai is an organisation helping foreigners stuck in UAE’s jails and prisons. According to the organisation, it’s very common for UAE police to arrest expats for shockingly minor offences. For example, people have been arrested for “specs of dust” in their bags, consuming alcohol, having poppy seeds found on their clothing, or 0.003 grams of cannabis stuck to the sole of a shoe.

According to the organisation, local authorities are known for forcing false confessions, committing shocking human rights violations, and keeping innocent people in jail.

There are many more people like Billy, and what makes this so frightening is that this could happen to any one of us. Because Billy is not a criminal. He is just a young man who got extremely unlucky.

UAE Defies Global Trend Towards Cannabis Liberalization

As the cannabis industry is growing across much of Western Europe and North America, businesses would be wise to familiarise themselves with the UAE framework to avoid any unintended consequences as seen in the recent case of Billy Hood (see here). The UAE maintains a strict zero tolerance policy on the use of cannabis as further explained below.

UAE Framework:

  • Federal Decree-Law No. 30/2021 On Combating Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances (the “Law“).

The Law prohibits the procurement, import, export, manufacture, extraction, separation, production, possession, acquisition and abuse of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Cannabis is specifically mentioned and its definition includes cannabis-derived products (including but not limited to hemp, hemp seeds, and THC and CBD-related products).

Medical Use:

The Law does allow for the use of cannabis for medical purposes strictly and as long as it is prescribed by a licensed physician in the UAE. Clinical trials can also be conducted, however only controlled medical applications of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances may be administered for scientific research and this must approved by the Ministry of Health and Prevention. The private and public sector are prevented from growing, manufacturing and selling cannabis products for recreational purposes but it may be imported for medicinal purposes. Under the Law, cannabis products may be imported into the UAE but this will require a written permit signed by the director of the importing company and in the format prescribed by the relevant UAE competent authority.

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As a result, the feasibility of marketing even medical cannabis in the UAE is currently very low.

Hemp products

At the moment, there is no distinction between cannabis and hemp. However, there is an exemption for hemp seed oil (not hemp seeds), as hemp seed oil is permitted for use in the UAE. The Dubai Municipality confirmed in a news article published in January 2019 that the sale and purchase of hemp seed oil is legal, and hemp seed oil can be found in cosmetics and health care products sold in the UAE. The extraction process used for hemp seed oil (similar to olives and coconuts) means that it does not have narcotic properties and as such its use is permitted.

Penalties under the Law

The Law provides for the following penalties:

  • If found in possession of cannabis, a first time offender may be to sentenced to imprisonment between three months and up to one year and given a fine of an amount between AED 20,000 (approx. USD 5,400) and AED 100,000 (approx. USD 27,000). The UAE courts have the discretion to exchange punishment for first-time offenders with treatment in specialized rehabilitation units to be established across the UAE under the Law.
  • Repeat offenders will have increased punishments ranging from 6 months to 2 years imprisonment and fines between AED 30,000 (approx. USD 8,000) to AED 100,000.
  • If found to be selling or distributing cannabis in the UAE, a penalty of imprisonment for a period of not less than 10 years and not more than 15 years will be imposed on offenders and the individual will also face a fine of not less than AED 100,000. For repeat offenders the penalty will be increased to life imprisonment (25 years) and another fine of AED 100,000.
  • For causing harm to another, the penalty is imprisonment for no less than 7 years and a fine of no less than AED 100,000. In the case of serious harm, imprisonment is no less than 10 years and a fine of no less than AED 200,000 may be imposed.
  • Any non-UAE national found guilty of the aforesaid crimes will likely be deported after serving the prison sentence.
  • Under the Law, drug trafficking or causing the death of the victim through drugs is punishable by an imprisonment of 25 years or in extremely rare cases by death (usually executed by firing squad). In February 2020 four men were sentenced to death for smuggling heroin into the UAE (see here).

In looking towards the future, it is clear that the UAE will still maintain a strict policy on cannabis as evidenced by the imprisonment of the British football coach Billy Hood (see our blog post on this case). Furthermore, the marketing of cannabis for medicinal products will still be of limited value in light of the current framework. For further information please contact Laya Aoun of our Dubai office.

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