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UAE eases drug laws for travellers, raising questions on Billy Hood case

The United Arab Emirates has announced that it will now destroy cannabis products rather than imprisoning individuals.

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UAE eases drug laws for travellers, raising questions on Billy Hood case
Image from Detained In Dubai of British national Billy Hood

The news that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will relax cannabis drug laws has raised new questions about the case of a British national detained for possessing CBD products.

The UAE has said it will destroy products containing cannabis that have been brought into the country by foreign travellers, instead of imprisoning individuals, in what has been described as a “step in the right direction” by campaigners.

However, the development raises the question of the release of British national Billy Hood who was imprisoned for trafficking, selling and possessing CBD earlier this year.

Published in the country’s official gazette, the Associated Press (AP) has reported that the UAE has confirmed it will be relaxing its drug laws around cannabis. Travellers carrying cannabis products would normally face a four-year prison sentence if caught.

According to AP, the law change will see minimum sentences for first-time drug offenders of three months to two years, and convicts will be offered rehabilitation. It also reports that travellers caught with cannabis products are normally deported to their home countries following imprisonment, but that this decision will now be left to a judge. 

A number of foreigners have been imprisoned by the UAE for what the country constitutes as crimes, including having prescription medicines.

The recent case of 24-year-old Billy Hood saw the British footballer sentenced to 25 years in prison in Dubai following the discovery of four bottles of CBD in his car.

Billy explained to the authorities that his friend from England must have left them there on the way to the airport following a visit and that he was not aware of the presence of the products.

At the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) headquarters, a urine sample was processed which was returned as negative and Billy was asked to sign a document in Arabic without an English translation, which Billy refused to do. After being sent back to a holding cell, Billy succumbed to the pressure and agreed to sign the document in Arabic, not knowing its content. 

Radha Stirling, CEO of campaign group Detained in Dubai, which is working with Billy’s case, commented that: “Forced and coerced confessions are commonplace in Dubai.”

Billy’s brother Alexander is fighting for his freedom and the case has been appealed by Billy’s lawyers following allegations that Hood has been tortured after being moved to Al Sadr prison in Abu Dhabi and placed in solitary confinement in a cockroach-infested cell.

Billy’s mother has reported that he has been uncontactable since being moved to the prison. 

Speaking to Cannabis Wealth on the new development to UAE drug laws, Stirling commented: “It’s pleasing to see the UAE is finally addressing draconian drug laws that have seen numerous foreigners locked up for arbitrary reasons like prescription medicine, residual THC in blood from hashish consumed overseas as well as simply knowing someone who has possessed small amounts of drugs. 

“This is a step in the right direction and something we’ve pursued for almost 14 years. But what really needs to be focused on is forced confessions and wrongful prosecutions like we have seen in the case of Billy Hood whose appeal results are expected today.

“The changes in law have come after years of public outrage caused by the large number of wrongful arrests and prosecutions. We are pleased to see the UAE responding to calls for legislative change but the procedural issues will continue to cause unfair detentions.”

On 27 November, 2021, Billy’s family appeared at Dubai’s largest luxury property show in London to set off #FreeBilly balloons for his birthday.

“Billy’s mother Breda is frightened to get her hopes up for next week’s appeal results,” commented Stirling in a statement.

“It has been a most distressing time since Billy was moved to Abu Dhabi and put in isolation. The past year has been an absolute nightmare for the family and they are stressed out of their minds.

“Andy Neal went through the same thing. He was detained for a whole year before finally being exonerated. I don’t think anyone can imagine what that does to a person. The impact and trauma are ongoing and lead to broken families and damaged victims. The human toll of failing and corrupt police practices is extreme and a serious human rights issue.

“When UAE enterprise then comes to London to put on property shows and the like, offering free residency visas and 50 per cent mortgages, we have to understand that people will be lured into these offerings and are at risk of losing their investments as they have done systematically for over a decade, their freedom or like Lee Bradley Brown, their lives. 

“There are thousands of foreigners who have been deceived by property developers often owned by the government and this deceit has resulted in their loss of funds and freedom as banks have jailed them for debt. Numerous British nationals are in Dubai right now, prisoners in the capital of fraud and money laundering. After being robbed by companies with deceptive trade practices and zero accountability, they are then held in the country until they can repay mortgages for homes that were never even finished. The catch is, their passports will be confiscated and their working permits cancelled at the same time. Foreigners have faced homelessness and become suicidal over this egregious situation.

“The [UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office] FCDO has been criticised for its lack of sufficient travel warnings to the UAE and in fact, this very issue will be debated in Parliament shortly. For the time being, it’s important that those being lured into mortgages, debt and unfinished property developments are warned by rights groups of the risks they face in the Gulf. The best way to do that is to attend Dubai’s marketing events to warn citizens directly.”

A petition to release Hood from prison has so far received more than 100,000 signatures and is aiming to collect 150,000 signatures to become one of the most popular petitions in the history of Change.org.

An FCDO spokesperson said: “We are giving consular support to a British man who has been imprisoned in the UAE. We are in contact with his family in the UK.”

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Colombian-grown cannabis flower reaches Switzerland

The shipment follows updates to Colombia’s cannabis export policy.

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Colombian-grown cannabis flower reaches Switzerland
Home » News » International » UAE eases drug laws for travellers, raising questions on Billy Hood case

Allied Corp has shipped 1728kgs of Colombian-grown commercial cannabis flower to Switzerland. 

The shipment has been made as a part of the previously announced export approval of 7100kgs of Colombia-grown cannabis. This shipment of 1728kgs to Switzerland will be followed by 1500kgs weekly until the 7100kg threshold is met.

After the enactment of Colombia’s new legislation allowing for the legal export of dried cannabis produced in Colombia in April 2022, Allied submitted several applications for export. 

Read more: Colombia votes in pro-cannabis president Gustavo Petro

After receiving approval for export, Allied’s first export was shipped in June 2022 and the second shipment was in July 2022. This latest recurring shipment in August 2022 is now turning into a weekly cycle of 1500kgs.

This makes Allied Corp the first company to ship commercial cannabis flower from Colombia to an international market.

CEO and Chairman of the Allied Corp board, Calum Hughes, commented: “We are the first company ever to ship a Colombian commercial shipment of dried cannabis to an international market – now we are not only duplicating our shipments but are doing so at a commercial scale.

“This is the largest known legal shipment that we know of out of Colombia. This accomplishment speaks to the quality of our team, and most importantly our product.”

Allied has said that it has multiple strains in the production pipeline including over 15,000 THC plants created for multiple batches to fulfil its 2022 quota.

Hughes added: “From decades of production expertise, manufacturing and supply chain quality assurance, regulatory expertise and logistics coordination – the team has performed.

“The three years of genotyping and phenotyping followed by the regulatory knowledge needed to execute the export have proven successful.

“We can now boldly claim that we are not only the first to pull it off, but we have been able to duplicate the orders at commercial scale; the largest that we know of.

“We have now done it for three months in a row and are tightening this cycle to now ship 1500kgs every week.”

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Whitehouse remarks on “wrongful detainment” of Griner for Russian cannabis charges

The basketball star has been sentenced to nine years for allegedly smuggling cannabis medicines into Russia.

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Whitehouse remarks on “wrongful detainment” of Griner for Russian cannabis charges
Home » News » International » UAE eases drug laws for travellers, raising questions on Billy Hood case

American basketball player, Brittney Griner, aged 31, has been sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia after she was caught in possession of cannabis.

As well as a nine-year sentence for possession of vape cartridges containing cannabis, the WNBA star and two-time US Olympic champion has also been ordered to pay a fine of ₽1m (~£13,745).

Some reports have suggested that the development could see the US and Russia negotiating over a prisoner exchange.

Read more: Billy Hood CBD appeal reduces sentence to ten years

President Joe Biden’s office released a statement on the sentencing of what it describes as the “wrongfully detained” Griner, who has been detained since February,

Biden stated: “Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. 

“It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates.

“My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”

Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, said the star was being used as a “political pawn”.

In a press briefing by White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and NSC co-ordinator for strategic communications John Kirby, Jean-Pierre stated: “We have repeatedly called for Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates.

“Under President Biden’s direction, the US government continues to work aggressively, pursuing every avenue to bring home Brittney, Paul Whelan, and every American held hostage and wrongfully detained around the world.

“As you all know, we have made a substantial offer to bring her and Paul Whelan home.  We urge Russia to accept that proposal.

“I’m not able to share more publicly at this time, but we are willing to take every step necessary to bring home our people, as we demonstrated with Trevor Reed. And that’s what we’re going to do here. I can assure you this is something the President and our national security team are focused on every single day.”

Griner has 10 days to appeal the verdict.

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Flora Growth partners with Colombia’s largest indigenous tribe in joint cannabis venture

“We are honoured to be given the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with the Misak people,” said Luis Merchan, Flora’s Chairman and CEO.

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Flora Growth Colombia

Flora Growth has entered an agreement with one of Colombia’s main indigenous tribes to process and distribute cannabis products.

Flora Growth has entered into a joint venture agreement with Pharma Indigena Misak Manasr Sas, the largest indigenous tribe in Colombia, on the development of cultivation best practices, manufacturing, export and marketing of cannabis and cannabis-containing products.

Under the agreement, the outdoor cultivator, manufacturer and distributor will provide Manasr regulatory advice, technical and business support related to product development and distribution, promotion of products to be marketed under the Flora brand portfolio, and cannabis derivatives to complete product production.

Additionally, Manasr will work closely with Flora in developing cannabis pharmaceuticals and products and help advance the approvals and authorisations required for exports of cannabis from Colombia.

“We are honoured to be given the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with the Misak people,” said Luis Merchan, Flora’s Chairman and CEO.

“Through this partnership, we will collaborate with the tribe on the processing and distribution of their Colombian-grown cannabis while offering Manasr a powerful platform for product distribution. In return, Flora will be able to leverage the tribe’s unique regulatory positioning to expedite exports and increase global market penetration of Colombian cannabis goods.

“We look forward to a long-standing relationship with such a powerful community partner.”

The initial term of the agreement is three years, however, the intention is to create a “lasting and mutually beneficial relationship for the foreseeable future”, the company said.

This announcement comes two weeks after Flora Growth’s CEO Luis Merchan met with Colombian Senator Gustavo Bolivar, the author of a new bill to legalise recreational cannabis.

Bolivar, the key author of the bill, and Merchan discussed the top tenants of the bill, the bill’s implications for companies such as Flora in Colombia and what legalisation means for the country’s burgeoning domestic and international cannabis markets.

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