Newsbrief: United Arab Emirates Ponders First Step Toward Harm Reduction 7/9/04

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A top official in the Persian Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi has said the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is considering shifting its drug policy to one treating drug users as patients, not criminals. In informal remarks made at a United Nations' International Day Against Drugs event in Abu Dhabi, Lt. Col. Abdul Rahman Al Shamsi, head of the Anti-Narcotics Department of the General Directorate of the Abu Dhabi Police, told the local newspaper the Khaleej Times that the UAE Ministry of Interior was looking at "the new science-based approach" as part of its war on drugs.

In the UAE, the war on drugs is aimed primarily at hashish, with opium and its derivatives a secondary target. According to UAE figures from 2002, that year the Emirates saw 275 drug arrests while seizing slightly more than a ton of hash, eight pounds of opium, a half-pound of heroin, 20,000 "narcotic capsules" and 18 grams of marijuana.

While it may seem like just a bunch of sleepy smoke to some, the UAE takes its drug war seriously. Here's what the British Embassy says to travelers thinking about partying down in the Emirates: "Penalties for drugs trafficking, smuggling and possession are severe in the Gulf States. If you have used drugs prior to arrival in the UAE and a blood test on you for illegal drug usage proves positive, you can still be charged with a criminal offense. In general the sentence for taking drugs is a minimum of four years in prison and a minimum of seven years for anyone found dealing in drugs. It can take up to six months or more for trials involving drug offenses to be completed. During this time the accused remains in custody on the basis that the eventual sentence will be longer than time already served."

But now, the first glimmers of change. "We will be treating drug users like patients, not criminals," said Shamsi. "They are victims and we will be helping them out to give up the habit through rehabilitation and reintroduction into the society."

Shamsi was apparently referring to a proposed new drug law. The UAE federal cabinet submitted a draft bill to the National Council in February, where it is still undergoing consideration.

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Issue #345, 7/9/04 Editorial: Time for Congress to Get Real | In the Wake of Blakely: Federal Sentencing Chaos as Defense Attorneys, Prosecutors, Lawmakers Ponder How to Respond | House Votes Down Medical Marijuana Bill -- Election Year Politics, Organized Opposition Cited | International AIDS Conference Puts Focus on Thai War on Drugs | Making it Official: More Initiatives Move Toward November Ballot | ALERT: "Thank or Spank" Your Congressman for This Week's Medical Marijuana Vote | Newsbrief: Rep. Ron Paul Brings Pain Doctor Prosecution Issue to House | Newsbrief: US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Rejects DEA Motion for New Hemp Hearing | Newsbrief: Kansas Supreme Court Says Cut Methamphetamine Sentences | Newsbrief: Tommy Chong Walks Out of Prison | Newsbrief: Iranians Protest US, UK Blind Eye to Afghan Opium Crop | Newsbrief: United Arab Emirates Ponders First Step Toward Harm Reduction | Newsbrief: Head of National Drug Intelligence Center Fired | Newsbrief: Prohibition as a Marketing Tool -- Camel Ad Campaign Touts "Forbidden Fruit" Appeal | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: California Prisons "Dysfunctional," State Report Concludes | Movie Opening: Maria Full of Grace | Media Scan: New CSDP Ad -- Richard Paey and Rush Limbaugh | This Week in History | Psilocybin Cancer Research Study Still Seeking Participants | The Reformer's Calendar

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