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Practical implementation of Article 96 of the UAE's Anti-Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances Law

The Federal Decree-Law No. 30 of 2021 on Combating Narcotic Drugs in the UAE introduced Article 96, which deals with the importation of narcotics and psychotropic substances into the UAE, and the exceptions of absolving the act as a non-punishable offense under the law.

Since the article was implemented, it has become evident that the UAE legislator has set specific conditions, which if fulfilled, empower the court to categorize an offense as an exception under the article of law. These conditions were recently affirmed in a conclusive judgment rendered by the Dubai Criminal Court. In this case, BSA successfully invoked Article 96, substantiating the foundation upon which this legal provision rests. 

To reiterate, the conditions which warrant the implementation of Article 96, are as follows:

(i) The visitor's possession of such substances must be their first offense in this regard.
(ii) The substances seized must be intended for personal use or consumption.
(iii) The substances seized must fall within the substances or psychotropic agents listed in Item (29) of Table (1), Item (8) of the second section of Table (4), Item (34) of Table (5), and Item (4) of Table (6) as specified in the Decree-Law.
(iv) The substances seized must be mixed in food, beverages, or any products brought from abroad by the visitor.

However, the substances mentioned in Article 96 relate solely to products that are manufactured by companies or factories and inherently contain narcotics or psychotropic substances that cannot be separated from the product later. For instance, if a traveler personally mixes any food, beverage, or product (such as e-cigarette oil) with a narcotic substance, Article 96 does not apply.

In this specific case, although the defendants were unable to provide evidence of how and where they purchased the concerned product(s) from, a specialized technical expert’s report demonstrated that the narcotic substances were an integral and indivisible part of the product, which could not be separated. Hence, the court used its discretionary power, in relying on the specialized technical expert’s report, to apply the well-established legal principle that any benefit of doubts should be resolved in favor of the accused, and thereby based on our defense justified the intended foundation of Article 96 by declaring the offenders innocent.

This decision is poised to be precedent setting, and we eagerly anticipate the practical implementation of the newly enhanced laws, contributing to the progressive development of the UAE.

Nonetheless, on the same note we would like to emphasize that drug use is still a criminal offence and the penalties for those that continue to break the relevant law continue to be stringent. It is pertinent to emphasize that individuals connected with trafficking narcotic and psychotropic substances now face stricter penalties than before.

This article was written by litigation lawyers Asim Ahmed and Hassan El Shahat and focuses on the use of narcotic substances in the UAE. 

BSA is a regional Law Firm in the Middle East with offices in the UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia. As a full-service law firm our practice areas include litigation, arbitration and corporate services, including M&A, banking & finance, Intellectual Property, TMT, Fintech, employment and insurance.

Published on 30 January, 2024.

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