There have been multiple headlines concerning the recent imprisonment of a British football coach (Billy Hood) in the UAE who was found to be in possession of CBD vape oil that contained elements of THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis. Whilst legal in the UK and other western countries it is strictly prohibited in the UAE.  

In connection with this case, the General Directorate for Drug Control (”GDDC”) stated that Mr. Hood was found to have ”quantities of cannabis oil intended for trafficking in return for financial gain.” The GDDC report that Mr. Hood was found to have various storage bottles, cannabis oil, 570 cartridges for vaping and a large amount of cash when he was arrested (see here).

The offence of trafficking carries severe penalties under the UAE law and has resulted in a 25 year imprisonment for Mr. Hood.

According to news reports the vape oil that was found in Mr. Hood’s car contained MDMB-4en-PINACA. The UN for Drugs and Crime and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addition, note that MDMB-4en-PINACA has been linked to severe adverse health effects and has led to reported deaths in Europe. As a result, it has been listed by the World Health Organisation (”WHO”) as a Schedule II substance under the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 (see here). The WHO commented in a UN report that MDMB-4en-PINACAis a potent synthetic cannabinoid that does not possess any therapeutic benefit.

The above case highlights the zero tolerance policy the UAE still enforces compared to other jurisdictions which are beginning to relax the regulations concerning cannabis use. Currently within the Arab nations only Lebanon has legalised the sale and growing of cannabis for medicinal purposes (see here).


Laya Aoun-Hani is an associate and senior member of Baker McKenzie's International Commercial & Trade Practice Group in the firm's Dubai office.


Arjun is a Trainee Solicitor at Baker McKenzie, currently sitting in the IPTech team in the firm's Dubai office.