There has been a flurry of articles lately issuing warnings to travelers to the UAE and supplying examples of the special drug laws in the Emirates.
The popular web site Boing Boing posted an article in 29 January 2008 about a young man who had been arrested in Dubai for carrying melatonin, supposedly for alleviating jet-lag.
In February Boing Boing’s Mark Frauenfelder had a more extensive article entitled ‘UAE's very scary drug laws’, which drew on the 8 February 2008 BBC article entitled ‘Tourists Warned of UAE Drug Laws’.
The British story explored the episode and came up with its own warnings.
Some examples of recent breaches of the drug laws in the UAE that were cited included the following:
• A Swiss man "is serving a four-year jail term after three poppy seeds from a bread roll he ate at Heathrow airport were found on his clothes."
• A 43-year-old Englishman who had a cigarette stuck to his shoe was sentenced was sentenced to four years in prison for possession of 0.003g of cannabis.
• Customs officers held a woman for eight weeks before she was able to convince authorities that her codeine pills were prescribed by her doctor for back pain.
The BBC article issued these warnings:
"If they find any amount - no matter how minute - it will be enough to attract a mandatory four-year prison sentence.
"What many travellers may not realise is that they can be deemed to be in possession of such banned substances if they can be detected in their urine or bloodstream, or even in tiny, trace amounts on their person."
Since these articles have been posted the Gulf News has reported at least two instances (25 February 2008, 2 March 2008) of people having charges of drug possession dismissed and they being released from jail. Not all cases, however, have been overturned.
The Fair Trials International has published a full list of UAE banned substances on its website.
The British Foreign Office is advising all travellers carrying any prescription drugs to take a doctor's letter detailing exactly why they need the medicine and the exact dose.
Up to the minute stories on drug themes are posted on the UAE-The Official Web Site, UAEInteract.
Dr. Geoff Pound.