A 24-year-old British football coach has been jailed for 25 years in Dubai after police found a small amount of CBD vape oil in his car.
Billy Hood claims he was forced to sign a false confession to trafficking the drug, which is legal to vape in the UK and is usually used for treating pain.
Although it does not get you high, CBD, a chemical found in cannabis, is illegal in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) because it contains trace elements of THC, the psychoactive component of weed.
“There are two crimes here,” said George McBride, managing director of Hanway Associates, a UK-based cannabis industry consultancy. “Forcing someone to sign a false confession & possession of a harmless medicine. One crime will ruin the culprit's life and the other will likely go unpunished. The drug war turns police into gangsters and patients into criminals. Boycott the UAE.”
Hood, a former semi-pro player from west London, worked as a football coach in the UAE before his arrest in January. It is a country notorious for its ultra zero-tolerance stance on drug-related offences.
In 2017 another British man, Connor Clements, 24 at the time, was sentenced to two years in jail after he moved to Dubai and took a drug test which showed he’d consumed cannabis.
In 2008 Keith Brown, a council youth development officer from the West Midlands, famously was sentenced to four years after customs officers in Dubai found a speck of cannabis smaller than a grain of sugar stuck onto the soul of his shoe.
UAE is one of a collection of countries that hand out the death penalty for some drug offences, although the last time it executed someone for a drug crime was 2016.
This week a court in Singapore, where at least 27 people are in jail awaiting to be hanged for drug offences, dismissed the appeal of a man against a death sentence of hanging for allegedly smuggling 1kg of weed. In April Vice World News revealed Singapore and Indonesia were sentencing drug offenders to death over Zoom calls.
“The UAE promotes itself as a glamorous ‘party place’ to foreigners with marketing designed to lure over investors, skilled labour and tourists,” said Radha Stirling, chief executive of Detained in Dubai who is helping Hood and his family. “Celebrities are paid to market the country, ultimately masking the truth for money. Dubai police’s handling of drug cases has resulted in numerous unfair detentions of foreign nationals.”
In a statement to his lawyers, Hood said: "I have always had a zero-tolerance on any drugs or illegal substances. For me to be accused of promoting and selling drugs in a country that has the same beliefs and values as me is very upsetting as it affects my future."
His family have asked the UK and UAE governments to intervene in the case. Breda, his mother, said: "I have hidden myself away, crying and crying when I imagine what our sweet boy is going through. It is the worst stress I've ever been through and I feel helpless."