The laws and regulations surrounding CBD can sometimes be complicated and confusing, but they are usually not that scary.
When you live in Europe, USA or Canada, the worst thing that can happen if you accidentally break some laws regarding CBD is that your products will be confiscated and you might get a fine. Not great, but also not so bad.
However, even though CBD is legal and accepted in many parts of the world, there are still selected places where one can get into a lot of trouble if caught with Cannabidiol (CBD). For example, the approach toward CBD in the UAE is rigorous, and expats and tourists may pay a very high price for having any CBD products on them. This was the case with Billy Hood - a Brit sentenced to 25 years in prison for CBD vapes that were not even his.
How is that possible, and could this happen to you?
Billy is a 24-year-old football player and coach who moved to Dubai in 2020. Like so many other young internationals, Billy had hoped relocating to the UAE would be an excellent career move. The salaries of coaches in the UAE are much higher than in the UK, and jobs for internationals are widely available.
Shortly after moving to the country, Billy started working with children and teenagers as a football coach. As he settled in, some of his friends from the UK came to visit. Unfortunately, one of them brought some CBD vapes, which would turn out to be a huge mistake.
In 2021, Billy's friend came to visit. Billy drove straight home after picking his friend up from Dubai airport. When he later left his apartment to fetch a charger from his car, he was met by local police who accused him of drug possession. The police proceeded to search his car, his flat, and Billy himself. He did not object, as he had nothing to hide and wanted to get this misunderstanding solved quickly.
Unfortunately, that is not what happened. Instead, the police officers found 4 small CBD vape cartridges in Billy's car, most likely left behind by the friend who had visited Billy previously.
The police arrested Billy and accused him of possessing and selling drugs. It is believed that they based their accusations on his WhatsApp conversations that included some drug-related keywords, and which the police monitored.
After being detained, Billy was presented with confession documents which the authorities demanded he signs. His request to see a translation from Arabic to English was rejected. Instead, he was told that the only way to leave the detention was to sign a confession he did not understand.
Billy refused. He was then put in isolation without access to any hygienic products and remained there for 14 days. It was too much for him to handle. Finally, Billy broke and signed the untrue confession when pressured by the police again.
The confession was followed by a sentence of 25 years in prison. After Billy's lawyers appealed to overturn the verdict, the sentence was reduced to 10 years. The decision was made without the court ever listening to the lawyer's arguments or Billy appearing in court.
The UAE is one of the strictest countries in the world when it comes to drug laws. And according to the UAE - CBD is a drug.
Any drug possession is illegal in the UEA. It is even illegal to have drugs in your bloodstream. This includes drugs and medication consumed in a country where they are entirely legal.
CBD, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid derived from a cannabis plant, is legal in many countries.
As it does not get users high, it is not considered a drug - as confirmed by the European Court of Justice ruling from 2020.
CBD is a supplement with many potential health benefits, helping people cope with various symptoms of health issues every day. Yet, there is no global consensus on the legal status of CBD, and each country has its own rules and regulations. This even applies to countries within the EU.
When you travel with CBD, it does not matter what the laws are at the place of your departure. Instead, the CBD laws at your final destination (and transit, if you have one) are what matter.
Many people are not aware of these rules. As a result, they are often met with a fine and the confiscation of their products.
Yet, some countries have such strict drug policies that the punishment is much more brutal. UAE is one of those countries, and this is why Billy is currently in prison.
The case of Billy is far from being the only one.
Detained In Dubai is an organisation helping foreigners stuck in UAE's jails and prisons. According to the organisation, it's very common for UAE police to arrest expats for shockingly minor offences. For example, people have been arrested for "specs of dust" in their bags, consuming alcohol, having poppy seeds found on their clothing, or 0.003 grams of cannabis stuck to the sole of a shoe.
According to the organisation, local authorities are known for forcing false confessions, committing shocking human rights violations, and keeping innocent people in jail.
There are many more people like Billy, and what makes this so frightening is that this could happen to any one of us. Because Billy is not a criminal. He is just a young man who got extremely unlucky.