x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Criminalise 'Spice' drug websites in UAE, prosecutors urge

The Abu Dhabi public prosecutor's office has urged the Government to force websites offering Spice - the synthetic cannabis - to either disclose the composition of their products or face blocking.

The UAE is battling the trade in synthetic cannabis Spice aka K2.
The UAE is battling the trade in synthetic cannabis Spice aka K2.

ABU DHABI // The public prosecutor’s office is urging the Government to criminalise internet websites selling synthetic cannabis.

Websites offering the drug should be blocked and online merchants treated as criminally complicit in drug dealing if they fail to ensure their products are free of the substances, officials say.

“Synthetic cannabis is even more dangerous than other narcotic substances, and its impact is 200 times more powerful than marijuana,” a senior official told Al Ittihad, the Arabic-language sister newspaper of The National.

The drug, best known by the brand names “Spice” and “K2”, usually comes in the form of a dark green substance and is marketed by some websites as a medicinal herb that enhances mood and offers a safe alternative to nicotine. It is derived from exotic plants from Asia but, to date, no conclusive research has been done to measure the drug’s toxicity or how long it remains in the body.

The prosecutor’s office says this marketing is misleading – pointing out that the drug, which is banned in the UAE, induces a “temporary state of psychosis” that includes hallucinations, delirium and convulsions.

They warn that using it can damage the central nervous system, prompt respiratory problems and even cause death.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) would not comment on whether it has already issued a ruling to block “spice” websites or not.

The prosecution official said that the UAE was one of the first countries in the world to ban the drug and called on parents to do more to prevent their children from using it. He noted that there had been a surge in cases involving the drug.

Last August, the public prosecutor’s office referred to court eight cases involving the buying and possession of the drug.

In May, the Cabinet decided to put synthetic cannabis on the UAE’s primary list of banned narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

Under UAE law, consumption of the drug is punishable by a minimum of four years in prison. Dealers face heavier sentences, including death.

newsdesk@thenational.ae