x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE Ministry of Health moves to ban synthetic marijuana

Nine of the laboratory-manufactured drugs have already been found in the UAE.

ABU DHABI // Plans are being put in place to ban more than 40 new drugs.

Forty four substances, which are being used as synthetic alternatives to cannabis, have been discovered internationally.

Nine of these have already been found in the UAE, said Dr Amin Hussein Al Amiri, assistant under-secretary for medical practices and licensing at the Ministry of Health (MoH).

They are manufactured drugs, he said, prepared in a laboratory.

The drugs belong to the group phenazepam and their effect on humans is "10 times more" than that of cannabis.

"They are being used by drug addicts, similar to the planted ones, like opium," Dr Al Amiri said yesterday, adding that they were not prescription or over-the-counter drugs and were not being used by doctors.

"What we will do is include in our law all 44. In the future, if any one will come to the Emirates, we have it in our law and we can take action.

"We will ban the 44 as a precautionary action, to protect the community."

The Higher Committee for Combating of Drugs, led by Dr Al Amiri, has reviewed the technical and legislative aspects of listing the manufactured drugs as banned.

State news agency Wam said that the MoH had received information from the Higher Administration for Drugs at the Ministry of Interior and the General Directorate of Dubai Police about the emergence of synthetic narcotics.

Once a thorough study has been completed, a report will be sent to the Health Minister, Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Owais, before it is submitted to the Cabinet to study and endorse. After that, the drugs can be banned by law.

Wam added that the UAE would be among the first countries in the Middle East to ban such drugs.

It said Dr Al Amiri called for the setting up of a preventive strategy to reduce demand and eradicate the spread of drugs to protect the reputation of the UAE.

Dr Al Amiri noted that the MoH, in conjunction with authorities such as the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice and local police commands, was "dead-set" on combating drugs and amending laws and mechanisms to step up control.

He added that the prescription of psychiatric and narcotic drugs had been standardised at the federal level to ease the overseeing of issuing medicines in public and private sectors, in collaboration with the General Directorate of Dubai Police.

The Higher Committee for Combating of Drugs meeting involved members of the Dubai Courts, Dubai Public Prosecution, Criminal Evidence from Dubai Police and Sharjah, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice and officials from the health authorities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Wam said.

ecleland@thenational.ae