American Jailed In Dubai For Legally Smoking Marijuana Before Trip

Filed Under: Travel

Dubai welcomes millions of visitors from abroad annually, and it’s known for being one of the most “open” places in the Middle East. It’s a destination that people go to party and have a good time, and a vast majority of the time people leave without issues.

However, that’s not always the case, and this is a good reminder of the risks…

American hospitalized and then jailed in the UAE

The Daily Mail has the story of how a 51-year-old American man from Las Vegas traveled to Dubai in late February. He smoked marijuana in Las Vegas legally prior to his trip, and of course didn’t take any with him, since that’s highly illegal.

A day after arriving in Dubai, the man fell ill with pancreatitis and was hospitalized. He received emergency treatment, and a day prior to being discharged he was asked to provide a urine sample.

The urine sample showed traces of marijuana, which is illegal in the UAE. Per laws in the country, the hospital had to turn over those results to the police.

At that point the man was arrested by the police and thrown in jail for three days. While in jail, a vein where an IV had been placed as part of his treatment became infected, and the medicine he was prescribed also weren’t given to him by jail staff.

After being released from jail he was confined to his hotel, as prosecutors are still deciding whether to charge him, in which case he could be looking at up to three years in jail on drug charges. He’s not allowed to leave the country, as he’s apparently on the UAE’s “no fly list.”

As the man said in an interview:

“I was absolutely stunned to learn that I was being charged due to residual marijuana in my system. I smoked it legally back in America long before I even got on the plane.

I knew about Dubai’s strict drugs laws but never for one moment did I think something I legally did in my own country would lead to my arrest.

This has just turned into a complete nightmare. I never thought by going to hospital I would end up being thrown in a jail.”

These arbitrary laws are a problem

If you ask me, this is such an egregious enforcement of the law, and hopefully these charges get dropped. This is the general issue with traveling to a country that has strict laws that aren’t enforced a vast majority of the time.

It’s obviously one thing if he brought marijuana to the UAE, or consumed it while there. But instead he legally consumed it in the US prior to his trip.

I have to be honest — I’m familiar with the UAE’s laws in general, but I didn’t realize that consuming marijuana in a different country prior to visiting the UAE was illegal. Of course I can understand how the police would be concerned to find marijuana in someone’s system, but you’d think an explanation and potential search of someone would clear this up. Then again, this is a non-issue a vast majority of the time, since this only became a problem because the visitor was hospitalized.

And before someone starts talking about how “drugs” are bad and that this guy should have known better, let’s keep in mind that until late 2020 it was a criminal offense in the UAE to consume alcohol without an alcohol license.

Of course so many people in the UAE drink, but people weren’t prosecuted unless they were arrested for another offense. So it was another law that was enforced when it was convenient, but otherwise not.

And then there have been laws against using VPNs, laws against “writing bad words on social media,” or heck, laws against plane spotting.

Does this mean you shouldn’t travel to the UAE?

You might be saying “well how can you ever recommend anyone travel to the UAE when things like this happen?” It’s a fair question.

I’d counter that by sharing a story that a friend who is a flight attendant at Emirates once told me. She was working a flight to the US, and noticed that one of her colleagues seemed nervous the whole flight. She asked her if everything was okay. As it turns out, it was the flight attendant’s first time visiting the US, and she was terrified of her layover — she had heard about all the mass shootings in the US, and was scared that could happen to her.

And she’s not wrong. Ultimately is that any less of a risk than potentially violating a law in the UAE and actually being charged as a visitor? I’d say not. There are a few “viral” stories every year about people being jailed in the UAE for seemingly unbelievable reasons, but that’s about it.

So yes, you should always keep in mind the risks of traveling to foreign countries, and consider local laws. There’s reason to be concerned. But ultimately this impacts a tiny percentage of people, just as backwards policies in other countries also impact people.

The US has backwards drug laws as well

If the UAE wants to deport this person that’s fair. I think the main issue is the fact that he’s potentially looking at years at jail, which is on a different level.

It’s important to consider how backwards our laws in the US are against marijuana as well:

  • Smoking marijuana is legal in many US states
  • At the same time, you can be denied entry to the US if you admit that you’ve ever used “drugs”
  • In other words, a Canadian who has legally used marijuana in Canada years ago could be denied entry to the US for admitting that

Bottom line

An American man is potentially looking at a jail sentence of several years in Dubai after legally smoking marijuana in Las Vegas prior to his trip. This only became an issue because the man was hospitalized shortly after arriving in the country, and was forced to provide a urine sample.

It’s another reminder of the general risks of traveling to countries with different laws. These differences typically don’t pose any problems, until they do…

Comments
  1. They have a few stupid laws in that part of the world. I know someone who was jailed in Dubai because he had a box of sleeping pills with him but not a medical proof that he need it. Even that is considered drugs overthere.

  2. Moral of the story is don’t support the UAE and the false sense of a friendly, safe place to travel and visit. The place is built by slave labor and run by extremist religious zealots – many foreigners have ended up in similar situations there. I have never seen the appeal of this city or really the Middle East in general for travel.

    Really hope this guy is able to get out of this but I am unfortunately not optimistic.

  3. The thing is these laws don’t just exist in religious countries like the Middle East, but in South East Asian nations that are strict as well. Singapore actually has the same standard that marijuana metabolites still count as possession (note, there is no way to remove marijuana waste products from someone’s blood/urine and then make that into an intoxicating substance).

    Personally, I do think this is over the line, since the individual in question behaved as per local law at all times. I’d like to see exemptions carved out globally for people who are abiding by local laws with their behavior, especially since metabolites are removed at such an individual pace.

  4. I heard a story about how how someone traveling from London Heathrow consumed a poppy seed roll while in London and at Dubai Airport 3 individual poppy seeds were found on his shirt and shoelaces so got 4 year jail sentence for “illegal smuggling ”

    Gotta be careful can also be charged even without being aware or consuming anything. It’s possible you’ll step on a poppy seed or something somewhere and it’s stuck to your shoe then on arrival get caught and arrested for it!

  5. Cultural Relativism.
    It’ll get you into trouble in countries that are run like medieval theocracies.
    In these places, love does not win, diversity is not a strength, and human rights are an after-thought.

  6. Do not support the UAE or any toxic right wing religious middle eastern countries. I’ve stopped doing any business with any of them. As a gay man, you should stop advocating people go there too, Ben. I don’t care how much “bling” is on the stupid tacky Emirates suites. You could be jailed for life, stoned, or killed “in the name of Allah” in most of these knuckle-dragging wastelands. Anyone with a conscience should avoid going to any country that treats women like slaves, employs slave labor from India, Pakistan, Asia, etc, confiscated passports of airline workers, and literally stones people for even being suspected of being gay. It’s time the “blogger” world take a stand and stop supporting these radicalized countries. Money talks. Boycott them until they stop living in the 15th century.

  7. Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean you should do it. Cigs are legal but you couldn’t pay me to do it. It’s legal in my state too and I see nothing but morons literally lining up at these MJ shops. They smell so bad when you have to stand next to them. Good riddance.

  8. Lucky, you often mentioned the UAE generally in your article, but please don’t forget that the UAE is not only Dubai, and that there are also federal laws as well as local laws depending on the actual Emirate. For example, Sharjah is a dry Emirate and it’s illegal to even have alcohol in your system while passing through.

    Dubai is a lot more liberal in many things but there are many expats who found out about laws (e.g. cohabiting while unmarried) the hard way. The thing is, if you stay under the radar, things are usually fine, but if something even completely unrelated happens, it can cause a domino effect. This seems to be exactly what happened to this guy.

    Having said that, as someone who used to work in the Middle East quite often, I can say that the UAE is a very safe country and, while the laws are strict, this particular story seems very unusual and almost bizarre. Personally, I would live in the UAE anytime.

  9. Libra Millennials.

    It’s important to respect the culture and laws of a host country. Marijuana is highly illegal in the UAE. The test — which is of course given to ALL people admitted. to a hospital – cannot tell if you spoked for legally in Las Vegas if your smoked pot legally in Seattle, if you smoked pot legally in Jakarta, or if you smoked pot illegally in your hotel room in Dubai. The law is applied . If the UAE decides at some point that pot should be legalized t hey will do so.

    Outlawing Drugs is not medieval. Perhaps they are thinking of the many construction crews working on building that will get stoned and they endanger themselves at sites – they way they do in THE US. Perhaps they are concerned about people drinking cars. Alcohol might be legal I the UAE but being drunk certainly is not.

    The UAE is being very reasonable in deciding how to proceed. It is unfortunate that the man was caught with pot in his blood, but there is nothing the UAE can do. Laws must be followed.

  10. Singapore also will arrest you if drugs are found in your system, even if legally consumed in another country prior to arrival. And it’s even worse in Singapore as they can demand a drug test on arrival in customs. Rare for non-citizens/residents but possible.

    I think pot should be legal even though I’ve no interest in using it personally. But different countries and cultures have varying laws – research thoroughly before traveling or take on the risk.

    The US gun violence comparison is inapt. Most gun homicides involve someone known by, or connected to, the victim; and random shootings in crime-ridden neighborhoods. The odds of any one person, particularly a tourist or aircrew, getting shot are essentially zero.

  11. If we want to be technical, there is no legal way to smoke marijuana in the US and even if UAE made exceptions for people following national law before travel, it’s doubtful they would for the US as marijuana is ILLEGAL under federal law. I’m pretty sure Singapore does this too.

  12. Then will they prosecute people for having sex outside marriage or being gay whilst outside the UAE, as by that logic it’s the same. Their government says that if you commit what’s considered an offence in the UAE, but is perfectly legal in your own country they can prosecute you. So if you brush past someone who smoked marijuana they could prosecute you if they found residue.

  13. I don’t use marijuana, but I still don’t want to travel anywhere in that region. Smoking is bad for your lungs, by the way.

  14. This happened in late February but he is still confined to his room in April? Ouch! No doubt this is a very unique/unfortunate situation but when I hear of stories like this (or being stranded in a country bc the border is closed due to covid), I always wonder how people survive financially? Who “plans” for (at least) 6+ weeks of hotel/food, etc.? The article says he is retired but I suspect something like this could have a huge impact on your finances, yeah? Or, perhaps, I’m completely off given that I have no concept of how to retire by 51, so he clearly knows something that I don’t.

  15. @Jim, nope is illegal to have even .00001 grams of poppy seeds even though it’s commonly eaten in other Asian and other predominantly Muslim countries!

  16. One more reason not to go to the UAE. Look past the glitzy cover and open up the book. I don’t think you’ll find anything you want to support. Wonder if the ACLU can help this guy out? State department? I know that when I travel it is my job to respect a country’s laws and customs, but what I do in my own damn country before I travel is between me and the States.

  17. In reality the UAE would only recognize the federal laws of the US in terms of even the friendliest diplomatic relations. They don’t care about NV state law. Until MJ is made legal federally, even domestically you need to consider that it remains in your system for 30 days and could face challenges in a state where it is not legal, let alone another country.

  18. Don’t travel to any dictatorship like UAE, China, Russia, North Korea and etc.
    These countries are ruled by maniacs
    Only travel to democratic countries then you will be fine.

  19. When something like this happens, the Dubai defenders say ‘Oh well, those are the laws of the country’. But when we point out that homosexuality is legal and penalties include death, the same Dubai defenders tell us that these laws aren’t really enforced.

    Seems like the Dubai defenders want it both ways. If Dubai is zero tolerant about their laws, why would any gay person ever visit Dubai?

  20. Also even for non users there’s the risk of second hand exposure of someone else’s marijuana smoke causing your blood to show “traces”. Just this morning in my local mall’s parking lot could smell weed being smoked somewhere. Now who knows how long I’m now a carrier in my system due to indirect exposure!

  21. Anyone who’s surprised about the UAE selectively enforcing drug and alcohol laws is gonna have their mind blown if they look at how the United States does things

  22. @ Mark F. — I’m not a “Dubai defender,” but you’re really missing some nuance here, which again, gets at the inconsistent application of laws in the country.

    Being gay — in other words, the very act of existing as a gay person — isn’t illegal in the UAE. Rather certain acts are. Historically any sort of act of “sodomy” has been illegal in the UAE, whether between straight or gay people. And for that matter, until late 2020 it was illegal for unmarried couples to live together in the UAE, but last I checked, half of the UAE isn’t in jail.

    You know where else acts of sodomy are illegal on a widespread? In the US, where as of early 2020, 16 states still had anti-sodomy laws, and that’s despite the fact that this was ruled unconstitutional in a 2003 Supreme Court case. Care to defend that?

    So yes, this very much comes down to inconsistent application of laws, which is the case across the board in the country. Whether we’re talking about having a drink, being gay, being straight and unmarried, or whatever, there’s a lot of inconsistent application of laws.

  23. Dubai is a great place for clean fun. Not so much if you’re an alcoholic (pancreatitis is caused by alcoholism), a pothead, a prostitute or a John, or a drug addict. It’s why I like the place.

  24. Best thing to do in cases like this is to just immediately deport the offender and give them a 10 year entry ban, rather than jailing them.

  25. Nelson we here in the US have “stupid Law’s as well but this is our country the UAE us their country and if we want to visit its our obligation to know the local laws just as visiting non Americans need to know ours, simple as that not so stupid. We Americans have a bad habit of judging others by our standards and trying to inflict our “values” worldwide face it the US is not so super anymore and certainly not the most formable force it once was thats a fact

  26. I lived there in DXB for 5 years. Nothing to see here, just another traveler who did not do their homework and was extremely unlucky. Know the rules before you go, review your prescription medications and if they are on the banned list, watch what you say on sensitive topics, don’t drink and drive, don’t get too drunk, and get back to your hotel before going to town on your significant other (of either sex). It’s an incredibly safe, clean but expensive place to visit. Follow the rules and don’t be a jerk, but recognize it’s not the US, you have no rights and when you come back try to recognize and appreciate the freedoms we have here in the US. As a former expat those on here saying not to travel to places like these are some of the very people that NEED to visit these places in order to gain the appreciation of home!

  27. I hope our State Department is doing something to get this man released! I’d like to see more coverage in the national media, hopefully bringing pressure on the UAE. When I visited the UAE a few years ago, I did not take medication I would have liked to have for jet lag. Did the same thing in Russia. There are probably numerous other countries where I should have done the same. Anyway, I’m glad to see your blog highlighting this story.

  28. Some people just love to spout their fake outrage.

    Hospitals in the US have a legal duty to report certain things to the police if they discover them just as the hospital did in Dubai. They follow local laws even if you may think they are ridiculous.

    How is this case different to that? Makes not one jot of a difference if it was legal in the US (state not federal level). What matters is what’s legal in the other country when they find it.

    I bet you could find a case of someone doing the reverse – smoking weed in a country where it’s legal then being prosecuted when traces were found when they are in the US.

    Just because something is legal in one country does not make it legal in another.

  29. On the flip side, if they let this guy off then every foreigner caught in the UAE with dope in their system would argue it was consumed outside of the country. Why should the UAE authorities believe him. He could have just as easily smoked a doobie in the UAE and tried to weasle his way out of it. Just saying!

  30. @Ben
    Happy to defend why anti-sodomy books technically still sit in some states’ legal codes despite the 2003 SCOTUS Lawrence v. Texas ruling you cite.

    The difference is that any of the laws you mention in state codes are not actually applied and technically cannot be enforced, even if they sit on the books. A state law doesn’t need to be changed in the state code because SCOTUS has ruled it unconstitutional, and their ruling applies to the entire US. Because of due process and habeas corpus, any judge – be it a local magistrate or a federal circuit judge – would immediately throw any such charges, if they are even brought, out. This would also subject the party bringing the charges to massive liability, which is why it never ever happens, and why state codes do not need to be updated after every SCOTUS ruling. Their ruling already orders the blocking of an unconstitutional law and is binding to any court in the entire judiciary system.

    So the circumstances you mention aren’t reality: those 16 states you mention don’t actually criminalize sodomy. And if some rogue police officer or prosecutor (no prosecutor in their right mind would ever do this) filed such charges, the person could demand to immediately be brought before a judge and have not only the charges dismissed, but take action against the false arrest. None of these rights exist in a place such a Dubai. Your example is not one of an inconsistent application of the laws at all.

  31. @DaveS
    Yes, the person in question made a mistake in admitting he smoked before his trip.
    This is an admission which could easily lead to criminal penalties.
    He should have simply said, in response to any questions, that he does not have any on his person and did not smoke anything in the UAE. He doesn’t remember anything else. And certainly never speak to the media prior to the disposition of such a case.

    This is like a traffic case I witnessed years ago, before my own ticket/case was heard, where someone was charged with going 11-20 miles over the speed limit. The person disputed the officer’s assertion of HOW MUCH they were over the limit by, and when asked by the magistrate how much they were actually over the limit by, they said “maybe 12 mph over.”

    Magistrate then closed the hearing and sustained the original charge. This is why you never admit to an officer in definitive terms, when pulled over, that you were speeding – because it is a recorded admission. Being polite by playing dumb, or speaking in “I don’t know” or “I believe” terms makes them not think you’re a liar but also doesn’t end up self incriminating.

  32. You do realize that any alien who admits to having smoked marijuana “legally” in the USA becomes inadmissable under INA §212(a)(2)(A)(i)(II)? Do you know how many aliens are arrested, detained and deported every year from the USA for engaging in the same “legal” consumption of marijuana that this guy did?

    With due respect, as someone who has lived in both countries, the UAE laws on drugs are far more straightforward than the US ones.

  33. A friend and I were in the Emirates for New Year’s 2019 (at Al Maha).

    We had a rental car and drove to Abu Dhabi because 1.) they had award availability for AUH-AMS and 2.) to see Abu Dhabi, the “Louvre,” the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, etc.

    At the Grand Mosque, the tour told us about how 2019 was the “Year of Tolerance” in the Emirates. As two gay men, we had a good chuckle about this (privately).

    Having said that, unfortunately, some countries (such as the Emirates) will charge foreigners from powerful countries simply to use the dismissal of charges against them to negotiate a particular diplomatic favor for themselves from the person’s home country. This happens with US and UK citizens for obvious reasons, bur is still very disappointing.

  34. @ Road Warrior — Your point is of course correct and totally fair, but in principle it doesn’t change how backwards it is that these laws are still technically in place, even if they’re not enforceable. And speaking of laws that haven’t been applied, to my knowledge the death penalty has been invoked zero times in the UAE for punishment of homosexuality or sodomy in the history of the country.

  35. @Ben
    A more succinct reply to your point about Lawrence is the supremacy clause of the constitution. Federal laws and federal judicial rulings automatically override anything that conflicts from any state, even if the state law hasn’t been changed.

    @DaveS
    The intricacy I was trying to point out with the speeding ticket is the defendant didn’t realize the code they were charged with covered 11-20 mph over; it was a range and a subtlety that most people wouldn’t notice.

    They were fixated on proving that they weren’t 20 mph over, and an admission they made ended up allowing the original charge to be sustained. That is exactly what the defendant in this article did by admitting he smoked prior to his flight; he admitted to having it in his system upon arrival in the UAE, which still allows them to sustain the charge.

    If you are ever arrested overseas and cannot bribe your way out (in certain countries where they arrest foreigners for bribes), always ask for a lawyer/your consulate, before saying ANYTHING.

  36. It probably will not add a lot to the conversation but even back in 1991, well before Christians could consume alcohol without a license, the “Ally Pally” bar in Abu Dhabi would be filled by 3 PM with Arab Sheikhs weaning their dish dashes. And they were not consuming coffee nor smoking hookah.

    The police avoided that bar totally unless they gave lots of notice.

  37. @ INS Vikrant

    Please translate Ben article in Hindu?
    You indeed are Hindu, and hopefully you will understand the article.

    Do you spread hate on this forum?
    The article has nothing to do with Islam

    A beautiful saying as follows :
    You can take a person into the bush but
    Cannot take the bush from him

    You just displace emptiness in your posting

    Ismail

  38. @Azamaraal
    Locals in the UAE – especially those with money/connections – get away with many things foreigners/poor people don’t. Of course the police wouldn’t even touch a local bar like that. Not a new revelation, nor is it unique to the UAE.

    @Ben
    It’s not even that the laws are not enforceable; after a SCOTUS ruling, and with the supremacy clause in place, it’s as if they don’t exist. So it isn’t backwards at all.

    The US is a very litigious place, so lawmakers wouldn’t have the time (or scope, as far as changing the law) to go back and delete the law you mention. It is unnecessary. The SCOTUS or any court ruling that is final already does that.

    Massachusetts has a law on the books that makes spitting a crime (from when tuberculosis was prevalent and they wanted to prevent that). Again, a court ruling nullified this law, but the fact that it is written doesn’t mean anything. The court ruling is a binding ORDER and is equal to it being rescinded or never existing in the first place.

    Also, to your point on applying a death penalty for being gay; I will take your word that their judicial system hasn’t meted out such punishment, but many vigilantes, including in the UAE, carry out such a punishment themselves, and they are never punished by the government for their torture/murderous act. This is effectively the same as the state sanctioning the murder, IMHO.

    P.S. Thank you for your reply and for continuing this civil discourse – I love it!

  39. In Singapore they test hair samples. I understand it stays on your hair until it is cut out. They also test at international schools randomly. You know this when you sign up to the school. My friends 13 year old was tested randomly. She thought it hysterical.

    As for poppy seeds in Singapore. You can’t buy them.

  40. Lucky, there are plenty of canadians who cant travel to the United states because they admitted they smoked cannabis legally in Canada. They are now forbidden from entry.

    This is despite the fact that unlike in the US canabbis is 100 percent legal in canada everywhere.

    How is that any different?

    This whole thing is just silly on all fronts

  41. Ismail,

    I believe INS V was highlighting the fact that laws, norms and rights in Dubai are very different than in many western countries which is quite true, wouldn’t you agree? As a former Dubai resident criticizing the local religion or local leaders or even flashing a “rude gesture” will indeed land you in jail, to say so is not “hate”. Of course doing any such things is indeed a blatant insult to local custom.

  42. Been in Dubai now for 17 years. My son was born here. Never had any issue with the law and also never knew anyone that has been in trouble and mind you, foreigners in Dubai make over 90% of the population. In Dubai drugs are forbidden. Period. Years of jail? No. The law has changed a few years back. Now the max is two weeks and deportation but for Marjuana I am not sure, it might be different. I would also like to respond to the one who called himself garbage. I know many gays in Dubai. I have friends since many years that live here and never had issues. There’s less tolerance for cross dressings but no issues at all for gays. I am an European who lives in Dubai and I hope that my testimony means something.

  43. Are you kidding me? I despair for humanity. Are these moronic governments going to try and control sleep and appetite next – perhaps try and find a way to make humanity’s Endocannibinoid system illegal?

  44. @Steven “Dubai is a good place for clean fun.” What an absolute laugh. Enjoy the hotel built by slave labor and the tacky nouveau riche feel of literally everything there. I’d rather travel pretty much anywhere else in the world myself.

  45. @ Lucky

    The anti-sodomy laws in 16 states are meaningless as you point out there’s a SC decision that ruled them unconstitutional. The laws were passed prior to SC decision. Not defending them regardless, but states as a matter of practice aren’t going to and wouldn’t be required to do anything legislatively after a SC decision as any case brought under the law would be dismissed automatically. So we really don’t have any laws on the books that anyone could be prosecuted under.

  46. If you want to experience a taste of the UAE then Dubai is the last place to go. Abu Dhabi, Liwa (Oasis), Al AIn, Fujairah, Khorfakkan, Ajman, Um al Qwain … would make a wonderful circle tour.

    Dubai is a very bad mix of Las Vegas and Hollywood with a little Disneyland thrown in for good measure. Lived there for a year and hated it – even worse than Toronto.

  47. There are actually a number of countries that will arrest you if they find drugs in your system, including Asian countries like Brunei and Singapore. Some, like Singapore, will selectively test incoming passengers and arrest them at the airport if they test positive.

  48. Seems over the top to test all hospital admits for MJ in their urine..Even worse if they checked peoples hair!!!

  49. “she had heard about all the mass shootings in the US, and was scared that could happen to her. And she’s not wrong. ”

    A person who lives in the US is about as likely to be struck by lightning than be a victim of a mass shooting. People are way way more likely to die in car accidents, fires or simply choking on food during the course of their lives. This is for people who spend their entire life in the US. What do you think the odds are for a tourist here for only a short period of time? Not sure why someone would agree with people from outside the US that being a victim of a mass shooting is somehow a reasonable concern for a tourist. It isn’t and it is always sad when people feed into that false media narrative and lend credibility to such a view. On top of that can’t really compare an event that people would have no control over to people who can absolutely chose not to commit a crime. The marihuana in the blood thing is not new for the UAE. They tested that flight attendant for it and it was major international news. People need to research the laws before they go into these countries, especially when dealing with the middle east and more repressive regimes. Do I think the UAE law is absurd? Absolutely. Do I feel bad for people who don’t bother to learn the laws about a country they are going to and get jammed up? Not so much. Know the deal before you go.

  50. It may have been “legal” to smoke and purchase marijuana in the State of Nevada but the Federal government sure as hell does not consider it legal: current laws still place marijuana as a Schedule I drug, along with heroin and cocaine and it remains illegal, despite the House of representatives passing a bill that would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act back in December 2020. The senate still hasn’t voted on it. So, the whole premise of the article that it was legal is really at question: it wasn’t. It may have been legal Nevada, but once you get on a plane, leave the country and travel to a land that considers it contraband, you’re at their mercy.

  51. Was in Dubai at end of 2019. It was ok. I wouldn’t particularly want to return again as I find it too one dimensional and not enough there there (culture/history) to sustain my interest.

    I feel bad for this guy as if he really did smoke his joint in Vegas before landing in Dubai, he really shouldn’t be prosecuted. However, if they let him go without doing much, then all visitors will say I smoked in my country before I came to Dubai. Then there goes the marijuana law.

    This post is helpful in a sense that it warns people to really do your diligence before traveling to a foreign country and make sure you stay clean of any drugs before hopping onto that plane. Last thing you want is sit in a foreign jail which can be a death sentence. The easiest thing really is “just say no!” 😉

  52. ETOH (alcohol) is a drug and the cost of its consumption to societies worldwide outweighs all other drugs combined.

  53. American ethnocentrism at its best.

    Just because something is legal in country/state A, does not mean you won’t be held accountable for your (past) actions in country/state B.

  54. If you live in any of the States that weed is legal you should not travel to Dubai. Second hand smoke could get you executed.

    Also states rights.

  55. Police/prosecutors will need a very good proof that the person did not smoke drug at all in Dubai to release the suspect – as drug in someone’s urine is a sure proof that the person smoked drug within a week (at most). And no, a drug suspect saying that “I only used drugs in the US and not here” won’t cut it given that drug abuse is serious crime outside North America…

  56. @Bill

    In the US the odds of being a victim of gun violence is 1 in 1000.

    Odds of being struck by lightning is 1 in 500,000.

    Bot even close to being the same.

    These are just plain facts.

  57. @Nicola

    Dubai may be better than some of it’s neighbors as far as the lifestyle for gay people, but that really isn’t sayibg much. There are limits as to how open gay people can be publicly, and online gay dating websites are usually blocked in all of the UAE. There is a reason why Dubai isn’t a celebrated destination for gay people the way other cities are.

  58. It’s funny because I’ve always been concerned about bringing in my opiate medication for arthritis and benzodiazepine medication for anxiety into Dubai. All the bottles have prescriptions on them, and I also carry a doctors note.

    I’ve never once had them pull out the prescriptions even though they can see them on the x-ray machine probably 4-5 different times.

    I think if you just go about everything the right way, and have the proper documentation, you’re safe. Just make sure you cover your bases for this backwards part of the world. I agree it’s not some “cosmopolitan” or “westernized” city as much as they want it to be.

  59. Just because a court rules that a law is unconsitutional and so unenforcable it will not stop a sherrif or prosecutor with an agenda with charging someone with that crime even if the courts won’t do anything about it. The mere fact you have been charged with a crime can be incredibly damaging.

    So legislatures should repeal such laws to remove them from the statute book. It’s not an onerous process for a legislature to follow. Their lawyers simply draft a law that repeals the affected law and the legislature passes that law.

    Given some of the nonsense I see US State Legislatures debating and passing the ‘no time’ excuse is risible.

  60. @burritomiles

    Is this a joke? Although death penalty is applicable for drug traffickers (not for own use), executions in Dubai occur very rarely, the most recent one has happened in 2017 and the reason was child rape and murder. A crime which is treated by capital punishment in most if not in all countries where the same is applicable. Drug users will face two weeks jail and deportation unless it is a negligible offence and as per my knowledge marjuana is considered so.

    15.93 million people visited Dubai in 2018 and a similar number in 2019. How many cases of visitors in trouble can you google? I live with my family in Dubai since 2004 and conduct a western lifestyle and never had any issue and nor I know anyone who got in trouble. So these are exceptions and as such should be treated. Dubai is a safe, friendly and welcoming place certainly with its pros and cons like any other land, but far from what some comments are trying to depict here, and mind you most if not all have never visited here.

  61. @Aaron

    Gays are not persecuted in Dubai. But Dubai has the right to adopt standards in according to its culture, uses and customs which reflect the will of its population. When this will change probably these will also reflect differently. Even for me and my wife for instance, it is not allowed to express intimate gestures in public, while in Europe there is no issue. For me it is not a huge issue so not a problem. For others it is so they won’t come or live here. It’s a personal choice. I know plenty of gays living in Dubai since over a decade and have never had a single issue.

  62. Regardless of what anyone thinks about the UAE, it is factually incorrect to say that marijuana was “legally” consumed in a state. It remains illegal under US federal law, as others have pointed out. Given limited resources, federal prosecutors generally do not prosecute possession within a state when consistent with that state’s laws. However, they will absolutely enforce federal law when crossing state lines or entering the country. Making no judgment on whether it /should/ be illegal, I can’t help but wonder how many of these situations would be avoided if marijuana users better understood the legal situation.

  63. A few years ago, a Norwegian woman was jailed in the UAE for having sex outside of marriage. Technically true, but it was because she was raped. She was pardoned, but shows how laws are applied in the country. Beware.

  64. As a frequent international traveler, and sufferer of ADHD, I often worry about other country’s laws regarding the stimulants I am prescribed. They are not prescriptions you can just stop taking when traveling. In that case, I’d probably get in trouble for my behavior off the meds.

  65. @Nicola

    If I was raped in the UAE I would not go to the Police because they would throw me in jail for being gay. If I was a women who was raped I would not go to the Police because they would throw me in jail for having sex outside of marriage.

    I live in LA and people smoke weed outside in public places, even at LAX. If I got in a car crash on my way to the hotel from DXB and walked past someone smoking weed 3 weeks ago they will throw me in Jail and I would fear that I would be publicly executed.

    UAE loves to pretend they are open and free but they are just as backwards as the rest of the Middle East.

  66. @INS V, Try and see what what happens if you criticize Hinduism in India. Look at the stats,How many women were “Gang Raped” in India vs UAE?

  67. @burritomiles

    You are wrong. Rape victims don’t go to jail, regardless of your sexual orientation. This is a myth which is still circulating because many years back there have been some accidents as such. But the country has evolved a lot since then and who is answering you is a European, living a Western lifestyle in Dubai, with several gay friends. What wasn’t allowed in the UAE was consensual sex outside marriage, but also this has changed. Consensual relationships are private matters. Rapes are rapes regardless and if the rape is proven then the culprit is the solely who responds in front of the law.

    Another myth. Death penalty for smoking weed. It’s not allowed. But the worse that can happen is a few days in jail if that is found to be the cause of the accident. But this happens also if you drive drunk and alcohol consumption is allowed in Dubai. As I have already stated, death penalty is applied in very rare occasions such as rape and murder of children. Otherwise the last who got executed even for murder (which is punishable by death in many US states) I think it’s more than 30 years back.

  68. This is absurd – just another reason not to visit the UAE. The person in question did something legally outside of UAE, something that in no way whatsoever can affect the citizens of UAE upon his arrival. End of story.

    What’s next? I check myself into hospital and they scan my brain for sodomy thoughts, to throw me in the slammer?

  69. @woodrow A very valid concern for anyone entering the UAE. We lived there with our son who suffered from Asperger’s Autism and required Ritalin. There was no legal way to obtain it locally or to import it so we had to smuggle it in each time we returned from abroad. The consequences for possession were severe.

  70. @Andreas – regarding the foreign woman jailed for being raped

    The complicating factor was that the rape was committed by a local who claimed it was consensual. Often under Sharia Law the male is innocent unless the female has a number of male witnesses to the crime or is severely physically assaulted.

    Unfortunately, even though the woman was released, her attacker was never tried.

  71. @Andy 11235

    If I understand your comments you insist that the UAE is correct because in the US it is not totally legal to consume marijuana.

    Would your comment be different if the person arrested was Canadian?

  72. Americans always think they are the center of the world and each corner of the earth has to follow your standards. Please, you are only representing less than 5% of the global population. If you don’t like it, just don’t go or keep having fun with your “allies”. If you go, do your homework and obey the local culture and laws. There is a reason why Americans are listed as the #1 most unwelcomed tourists in the world.

  73. @Azamaraal

    The man that has had sex with the Norwegian lady wasn’t a local but a Sudanese. After she complained of the rape she was not arrested and the police launched an investigation and confiscated both her passport and his to make sure they would not flee the country in the meanwhile. Six days later she went back to the police and retracted her allegation, saying that she had made the initial complaint because she was under the influence of alcohol. Then she was put in jail for perjury (perjury and false accusation is a serious offence in the UAE). Moreover her sudanese boss was sentenced 13 months in prison even if the rape allegations were retracted by the alleged victim. Subsequently she got pardoned (which means that she was not even expelled from the country).

    So the story has a lot of gray areas and shades, but from what has been summarized “woman jailed because was raped” the reality is deeply different and has been made a fairytale out of it. Most comments here are the proof. Besides, I know no country that would convict someone of rape without proofs.

  74. well i wonder why the UAE and Singapore and countries in the ME generally have a lower crime rate and more safety compared to the US…They actually enforce their laws and people know not to screw around. The US is a joke and people know it.

  75. @RC

    Close

    In the UAE you have a work permit that allows you to work there at the pleasure of the Government and your employer.

    It matters not if you break a law in the sense of the law. But if you break a bad law your work permit (and your entire family’s income) is cancelled and you are sent home on the NEXT PLANE.

    When the number of ex-pats in the country is 89% of the population (Wikipedia) then there is a huge disincentive to criminal behavior.

    Unfortunately the US cannot throw out lawbreakers, even those who are not citizens.

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