American faces jail in Dubai after smoking cannabis legally in the US

Under the United Arab Emirates’ laws, even having trace amounts of a drug in one’s system is enough to warrant a drug possession charge

Graig Graziosi
Monday 12 April 2021 17:55
British travellers have been warned about drinking alcohol on flights to Dubai

An American was jailed and is being held in Dubai after doctors found traces of cannabis in his system.

Peter Clark, 51, was visiting Dubai in February when he was stricken with pancreatitis. He was taken to a hospital, where doctors found traces of hashish - a cannabis concentrate popular in Europe and the Middle East - in his urine. The doctors then reported him to law enforcement.

Mr Clark was accused of drug possession and was arrested on 3 March, despite having ingested the drug prior to his visit to the United Arab Emirates.

According to "Detained in Dubai," a legal blog about crime and punishment in the Emirates, Mr Clark was taken to the Al Barsha police station and put in a cell with three other men.

Later, Mr Clark was allegedly transferred to a "filthy" cell along with ten other men who had been arrested for drug possession. Further, police allegedly denied him access to drugs that the hospital provided in order to help him recover from his bout with pancreatitis.

On 6th March, Mr Clark was released from his cell and was allowed to return to his hotel room, where he is awaiting further judgement on his case.

Radha Stirling, the founder of Detained in Dubai, is representing Mr Clark, and said he could face years in prison.

“The UAE’s arbitrary enforcement of laws and lack of predictable legal outcomes means that Peter potentially faces years in prison for legally smoking marijuana. Even if found innocent, he can be dragged through a slow and costly legal process,” she wrote.

Mr Clark described the conditions of his detainment, saying he has barley ate or slept since he was released from his cell.

“I’ve lost a tonne of weight. No shower, no food, nothing to drink since I got here. No sleep,” he said.

Ms Stirling has called on the US to do more to warn travelers of the potential legal dangers posed by the UAW's laws.

"We’ve seen foreigners arrested for drugs taken outside of the UAE, specs of almost undetectable marijuana ‘dust’ at the bottom of belongings, a poppyseed from a bread roll consumed at the airport, pharmaceutical and prescription medicine, and even a glass of wine served onboard Emirates airlines," she said. "Arresting someone for smoking marijuana in their own country, weeks before they even entered the UAE, is unfairly persecuting tourists who have behaved well within Dubai itself. The US State department needs to revise travel warnings to Americans who could end up arbitrarily detained."

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