Brit facing 2 years jail in Dubai for using legal marijuana medication in England 3 weeks before.
On the 21st December, 3 days before Christmas, when most Brits are looking forward to time with family and cosy nights with good food and loved ones, Connor Clements will be staring down the barrel of a two year sentence in a bleak, Middle Eastern jail infamous for human rights violations and torture.
His predicament is unimaginable to most of us. Connor sometimes suffered from anxiety, and gained relief from completely legal Sativex medical marijuana spray and cannabis CBD capsules. He stopped taking these before leaving his hometown of Liverpool, 3 weeks before his arrest in Dubai. The fact that minute traces of marijuana were found in his bloodstream weeks later in Dubai was enough for him to face charges.
The man who gave Connor’s name to police Sergei, a Ukrainian, had been caught with 10 grams of actual marijuana. The police asked him to name as many people as possible from suppliers down to people he thought were users to make a deal for his own freedom.
“Sergei had been with a group of people that came out for a drink the night I arrived in Dubai to start my new life,” Connor says. The 24 year old former forklift driver from Everton in Liverpool had landed a job at Dubai’s Lock Stock & Barrel nightclub as a waiter. The tax free wages meant he could save money for the future.
“I chatted briefly with Sergei who had confided that he dealt drugs. I told him that I had taken marijuana spray and capsules back at home for medical reasons, but I didn’t bring any over here because everyone knows that Dubai laws are severe with any kind of drugs, medically approved or not. I had no idea I could be jailed for something I had done legally in the UK.”
Connor thought nothing more of the conversation. He believed he had done nothing wrong in Dubai and could not know that his idle chat would have life changing consequences.
A couple of weeks later, his boss told him he needed to go to back to the centre where he had gone for his medical tests required for his visa. At the building, which also houses visa and police departments, two policemen were waiting for him. They took him to the police station and told him he had been named as a drug user. They made Connor have a blood test, which showed traces of marijuana.
“Sergei must have remembered that conversation on my first night in Dubai when the police arrested him. I found out that I was part of a big list of names he had given in exchange for his own freedom.”
“After my arrest I spent time in different jails: they were awful. 20 people to a cell, one toilet between everyone and it was just a hole in the floor where you had to go in front of all the other prisoners. It was frightening with prisoners fighting each other all the time.”
“In jail I saw Sergei who was on remand. He admitted to giving my name and a lot of others. It must have worked too, because in exchange for giving so many names, Sergei just got a fine and deported, whereas I ended up with a two year jail sentence for the traces left in my body from a legal medical marijuana spray in the UK. I never would have taken them in Dubai. I thought I was obeying both countries’ laws and being careful.
“I have a letter from John Lycett, the founder of Medical Marijuana UK, stating that I used the Sativex for medical reasons. I have passed this to my lawyer in the hope that it will have some effect on my appeal. I’m in absolute fear of being sent back to that prison.”
Connor went to court only twice during 3 months in prison before the final time for his sentence. “Each time was for no more than 30 seconds. I was asked how I pleaded and responded guilty but was not given an opportunity to explain the circumstances. Friends and family had all told me to do this and not to waste money on a lawyer.
“Everybody said I might get a fine. Deportation was my worst fear, having to give up my dream of a new life in Dubai. Never for a moment did I think that medication taken in England weeks before could have led to me potentially losing two years of my life in a primitive jail.”
“Hearing the sentence on the third visit to court, my world fell apart. Two years? I couldn’t believe it. I was numb with shock, shaking.”
As Connor was transported to the infamous Al Awir jail, word spread round Connor’s horrified friends and family about the harsh sentence. Mum Yvonne and dad Mark immediately started raising funds for a lawyer to launch an appeal.
“Connor has always been a decent, caring lad,” Yvonne tells us. “Always helpful, and he never gets in trouble. It is just so wrong he should be facing jail for this. He doesn’t take recreational drugs or even drink that much. The reason for the Sativex spray was purely medical.”
“We just want him home,” adds dad, Mark. “This was his dream, to go and work in Dubai, the glamorous city. And now it has become a nightmare for Connor and the whole family. I can’t bear to think of him in that awful jail.”
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained In Dubai, the British based NGO representing Connor gave the following warning: “Visitors need to be aware that in the UAE, possession of drugs extends to even having the presence of drugs in your system. We have seen British nationals arrested for having prescribed medicines present in urine or blood tests even where they consumed the medicine outside of the UAE.
"Connor did his best to ensure that he adhered the laws in the UAE but because the police commonly incentivise suspects to name names of friends or colleagues in return for a lighter sentence, Connor now faces years in jail."