Cannabis use is widespread and acceptable in Canada where it is legal, and in the United States where it is legal to use in at least half of the US States. Federally it is prohibited but state by state law makes it possible to consume in states where it is legal.
But an American who smoked up and got high before he boarded a flight for Dubai was jolted into a different Middle East reality when he was tested for cannabis possession in his blood! This is just as absurd as the arrest and jailing of the UK man Billy Hood who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for possessing harmless CBD oil.
The American tourist Peter Clark, 51 from Las Vegas faces years in jail in Dubai after doctors called police when they tested his blood and found cannabis – which he’d legally smoked before he arrived in the country.
What happens in Vegas needs to stay in Vegas
Clark flew to Dubai on February 21 this year for a few days to look at some professional recording studios he was thinking about hiring. Below is his story just after his release.
Falling ill with pancreatic issues, doctors checked his blood and found cannabis in his blood from hashish that he used in the United States, according to Clark.
On March 3 Clark was handcuffed and put in a detention cell with three other men.
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai a legal Organization to free foreigners trapped unconstitutionally in the United Arab Emirates helped free Clark. She notes you can even get arrested in Dubai for carrying in pills with codeine in them.
Two days ago she sent us this note:
Nevada resident Peter Clark, from California, was finally freed from Dubai after his 2 month ordeal which cost him $50,000. Peter was deported late Tuesday night on a flight via Doha to New York.
Stirling writes: “It’s outrageous that Peter was held in Dubai for almost two months on charges pertaining to cannabis he had smoked legally in Las Vegas before travelling to Dubai. Peter was a responsible traveller. He made sure he left any pharmaceuticals at home, including Aspirin, just to be sure he didn’t have any delays or issues at customs. Never did he imagine he could be arrested for cannabis smoked outside of the UAE.
Visitors to Dubai be warned about drinking onboard or Instagram posts from the past
“The UAE’s extraterritorial laws have landed a number of visitors in trouble. People can be arrested for having alcohol in their system, even if served by the government’s own airline. They can be arrested for hashish consumed legally, outside the country, that leaves residue trace elements in the bloodstream,” she explains.
The UAE’s Cybercrime laws are far reaching and visitors can be arrested for violations that happened years ago, outside the country. For example, an offensive or rude post on social media, or a rude private message on WhatsApp.
“Peter did nothing wrong,” Sterling says. “Dubai authorities are messing with people’s lives. They don’t seem to understand the impact a forced lengthy stay in Dubai has. People can not afford to stay in a hotel for 2-6 months awaiting a court hearing. They lose their jobs, their relationships and can even go bankrupt as a result. The stress, anxiety and emotional toll is far underrated. People in this situation don’t know if they are going to a foreign prison and whether their life is finished. This is possibly the most stressful time they’ve had in their lives. Loved ones are at home facing their worst nightmares too.“
Cases of Americans arrested in Dubai
“Numerous Americans have been arrested on frivolous and trumped up charges. We’ve helped Nichole Coffel, who was arrested for pressing her employer for wages after suffering a severe horse bite on the job, Melissa McBurney for telling her harasser to back off. Jordan Branford was arrested for a private Instagram message to his ex and David Oliver, for a small debt owed to a bank after suffering a stroke and becoming homeless,” Stirling says.
“This kind of abuse has been left un-criticised by foreign governments who are, in a sense, giving the green light to their allies, to commit egregious human rights abuses against US citizens,” she adds.
Rules can be very different in Middle East countries where unmarried couples are not allowed to rent the same room, or consume alcohol and in some cases you can get arrested for taking photos of public buildings where it is not legal to even photograph a likeness of something without permission from the owner.
We created a guide here to what you can do in Dubai. Freedoms like demonstrating in public for instance, or criticising a Sheikh could land you in jail.