Contributing Lawyers


Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross


Andrew Hudson

Warning for Travelers to the United Arab Emirates - Avaoid Carrying of Consuming Banned Substances

Trade with Dubai and the United Arab Emirates is increasing. In fact, Dubai is a new land of many opportunities.  However, Canadians and other travelers have not familiarized themselves with the laws of the UAE and are finding themselves getting into trouble for importing banned substances.

The UAE has a zero tolerance policy for certain products that would not seem to be illicit drugs to Canadian traveler (who forget that they are leaving Canada and different rules may apply) and that are illicit drugs.  If you have these products in your possession when you enter the country, you could be imprisoned.  In other words, your life will be interrupted and it is diffuclt for any person to prove that they are innocent.  For example, travelers could be imprisoned if they carry any of the following:

  • a poppy bulbs (such as the case of Bert Tatham, a UN worker who was returning from Afghanistan and traveled through Dubai);
  • poppy seeds (such as the Swiss man who has three poppy seeds on his clothing after eating a poppy seed bagel at Heathrow airport;
  • foods containing poppy seeds (the poppyseed bagel would have been a problem or a lemon poppyseed muffin)
  • melatonin (taken for jetlag);
  • codeine (even with a prescription);
  • diapam;
  • Prozac;
  • Robaxin (including Robax over-the-counter medications);
  • Robitussin;
  • Tamiflu;
  • Valium;
  • Xanax;
  • Zoloft;
  • other over-the-counter and prescribed medications;
  • cannibis (it does not have to be a lot - a man from Middlesex, UK was imprisoned for 4 years for a 0.003g trace of cannibis found in the tread of his shoe); and
  • illicit drugs.

It is also important for travelers to know that like cyclists in the Tour de France, the UAE may test your bodily fluids and could arrest you if traces of a banned substance is found in your body.  A male who had smoked weed a day before traveling to the UAE was imprisoned for four years when the drugs were detected in his bodily fluids.  The traces in bodily fluids meets the UAE definition of possession.

As a result, it is important to be careful about taking cold and other medications before traveling to the UAE.

To review that travel advisory issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International trade Canada, please click on the following link

We are providing a copy of a list of Restricted and Controlled Substances.  Please make every attempt to locate an up-to-date list prior to traveling to the UAE.



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