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10-year jail term for tourist caught with marijuana oil in Dubai

British visitor was arrested at airport carrying 307 pods of illegal substance

Marijuana oil seized by Dubai Customs’ Passenger Operations Department. Image Credit: Dubai Customs

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Dubai: Dubai Court of Appeal on Monday upheld the 10-year sentence for a British tourist who was caught smuggling 4.4-kg of marijuana oil through Dubai International Airport last April.

The 31-year-old woman was arrested with 307 pods full of marijuana oil or cannabidiol (CBD), which is used in e-cigarettes, along with an additional 1.4 grams of cocaine powder.

Dubai Court of First Instance initially sentenced her to 10 years in jail with a Dh50,000 fine followed by deportation.

Her lawyer appealed arguing that she didn’t hide the pods which indicates she had no criminal intent and didn’t know the substance was illegal in the UAE.

The verdict is subject to appeal in the Cassation Court within 30 days.

The case followed a police warning issued on CBD oil early last year, but there has since been two other incidents involving American travelers.

One was a 33-year-old man carrying 11 pods through Dubai International Airport last July, and the second was a 42-year-old man who was carrying 675-grams of CBD oil in 37 pods through Dubai Airport last September.

In the first case, the man also had 17 marijuana cigarettes weighing 21 grams, chocolate bars containing marijuana weighing 381 grams and two 60-ml bottles of liquid marijuana.

The second man in a separate incident also had had 112 pieces of cannabis weighing 528-grams, including 147 pieces of cannabis candy, 19 illegal painkiller pills and 1.1 grams of cocaine powder.

Brigadier Eid Thani Hareb, director of the Anti-Narcotics Department at Dubai Police had earlier said that cases involving marijuana oil were on the rise.

“Marijuana oil or cannabidiol, known as CBD, is spreading in the first quarter of 2019,” he told the 14th Hemaya International Forum and Exhibition last April.

“It can be used through vaping devices and we have witnessed a huge increase in the number of people being arrested this year in comparison to last.”

The Passenger Operations Department of Dubai Customs later announced in May that 87 seizures of marijuana oil were made in the first quarter of 2019 compared to seven in 2018.

“It is a huge increase in seizures for this illegal substance. We need to work together with all relevant departments in the country to fight the smuggling of narcotics, especially marijuana oil which is used in e-cigarettes and vape pens,” said Ebrahim Al Kamali, Director of Passenger Operations Department.

“Raising awareness around the hazards and bad effects of narcotics is very important, especially among young people,” he added.

Al Kamali said all measures are being taken to prevent the smuggling of marijuana oil through Dubai airports.

“Our inspection officers have a very high level of training and skill which enables them to detect these substances efficiently, with the help of highly advanced devices. This is part of our vision of protecting society from the hazards of these dangerous substances.”

What is marijuana oil?

Extracted from the cannabis plant, marijuana oil can be smoked, vapourised or eaten for psychoactive recreational misuse and may be sold in cartridges used with pen vapourisers for use with e-cigarettes. Vaping anyway causes breathing problems, lung damage and death whatever the oil used, but cannabis on top of this increases your chance of psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia, affecting your fertility and slowing your reactions to potentially dangerous situations.

British visitor was arrested at airport carrying 307 pods of illegal substance

UAE: More than a third of youth smoke ants to get high

More than a third of children and some as young as 13 have smoked the native samsum ant as a substitute for illegal substances such as marijuana, a senior UAE health official has warned. Smoking the red ant gives a similar sensation to smoking marijuana and sniffing glue because of the high concentration of formic acid found in the ants. It is not illegal to smoke the ants, and a small packet is said to sell for Dh400 in Dubai.

“People smoke the ants because they are cheaper and safer – in the eyes of the law – than smoking narcotics,” said a senior police spokesman. “It is also widely available, if not easily purchased.” Formic acid, from the Latin word for ant, formica, is a combustible liquid that produces poisonous gases when heated up. Health professionals say the long-term effects of smoking the red ants could vary from lung fibrosis to kidney failure and damage to the central nervous system.

The Ministry of Health has not yet conducted research on the effects of smoking the ants. “We are well aware this practice exists. More than a third of teenagers have tried it and some as young as 13,” said Dr Wedad Maidoor, the head of the ministry’s tobacco control team. “However, our research only identifies the prevalence and not the side-effects of the practice because we have only recently become aware of it.”

She believes the youth are smoking the samsum ant because it is a legal alternative to marijuana. “The only thing we can do is include this practice in our new anti-smoking campaign, which is aimed at young adults and teenagers. But we need to understand more about it before launching a campaign,” she added. The samsum ant’s poison gland holds formic acid, a chemical that smells like vinegar and is used by the ants to kill their prey and to ward off attackers.

When they bite, formic acid causes necrosis or deadening of the tissues. Mohammed al Ali, 27, believes the trend started with labourers from the subcontinent who roll the ants into their bhindis – pure tobacco cigarettes rolled up using a tobacco leaf. “It’s a social thing for Indian workers,” the Emirati said. “Go to Satwa Square and they are sitting there smoking the ants they rolled up into their bhindis.

“It’s as easy as picking up the ants, crushing them and then sprinkling them like you would do with marijuana over your tobacco. Then you get high,” added Mr Ali, who said he did not know anyone who had tried to smoke the ants. Two young Emiratis, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the ants were collected, ground down and left to dry before being smoked in pure form, either in a roll-up or a pipe.

They said they had not tried it, but had seen others doing it. “Kids just roll it up without any tobacco and smoke it,” said one. Dr Riham Ammar, a pulmonologist at Jebel Ali International Hospital, Dubai, believes those who smoke the ants need urgent help. “The samsum ants are high in formic acid, which is extremely harmful when inhaled,” he said. “Smoking them could lead to lung fibrosis, lung cancer and damage to the central nervous system.

“It’s like committing suicide.” The ants were not chemically addictive, he added, but those who smoked them were psychologically addicted to the effect. “People smoking the ants experience sensations associated with smoking cannabis and sniffing glue,” Dr Ammar said. He warned that breathing formic acid could irritate the nose, throat and the lungs, causing coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

Short-term effects when exposed to formic acid include nausea, headaches, dizziness and vision disturbance. “It could also damage the kidneys,” he added. Formic acid is used to make textiles, paper, leather, fumigants, pesticides and solvents, and in electroplating and silvering glass. It is a corrosive chemical and skin contact can severely irritate and burn the skin and eyes.

More than a third of children and some as young as 13 have smoked the native samsum ant as a substitute for illegal substances such as marijuana, a senior