x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

First UAE court case over newly banned drug 'spice'

A man is the first to be prosecuted for possession of spice, which was added to the banned drug list in May and became illegal in June.

DUBAI // The first case involving the drug "spice", which has been available in the UAE for two years but was only banned last month, has been referred to a court.

An Asian man, 22, will be the first prosecuted for possession and use of the drug, which is a synthetic cannabis.

Waleed Al Fuqai, the chief narcotics case prosecutor for Dubai, said anyone caught possessing, using, trafficking or smuggling spice would be prosecuted.

"The narcotics prosecution referred its first case to the Dubai Criminal Court, in which a man is charged with possessing and consuming spice," Mr Al Fuqai said.

The UAE is the first Arab country to ban the drug, which became illegal on June 1.

Mr Al Fuqai said spice would no longer be easy to obtain, and that 5 grams of the drug had a street price of up to Dh2,000.

On June 25 a package from the US was found to contain spice. The owner of the package was interrogated and tested for drugs.

"The man confessed and said he bought the drug online to try it," Mr Al Fuqai said.

He said that since the start of this year, 10 cases had been referred to prosecutors from the police anti-narcotics department.

Spice was meant to be used as a treatment for certain diseases in the 1980s, but was found to have no medical benefits.

"Its use first spread in the USA, Europe and Australia," Mr Al Fuqai said.

The drug causes hallucinations, inability to evaluate distance, panic attacks and confusion. It was added to the banned list on May 9 and the ban took effect on June 1.

Mr Al Fuqai said a Russian man throwing a party at his home took spice and jumped from the top of his building, confused about the distance to the ground.

In another case, he said, a Khaleeji man who had taken the drug was driving recklessly at high speed before he died in a crash.

Mr Al Fuqai said Dubai Public Prosecution, Dubai Police, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Health collaborated to have the drug banned.

salamir@thenational.ae