In the past ten years or so, more and more countries are leaning towards legalizing or have legalized the personal use of the drug widely known as marijuana. Even more countries have moved towards decriminalizing the drug.
Decriminalizing, in simple terms, means that there aren’t any criminal consequences for those that use the drug. But the use of the drug remains illegal. At least eight major countries have legalized marijuana and there are 36 other countries where marijuana is either decriminalized, tolerated or the law is ‘unenforceable.’
Since this is a legal column, I will refrain from mentioning my personal beliefs towards the use of ‘soft’ drugs such as marijuana and the legal trends that we have been seeing mostly from western countries in the past decade. But I think it is necessary for me to mention that not all legal trends from progressive countries are necessarily right or better for our Kuwaiti society. Let me be clear: I am not advocating for such ideas.
Instead, I am writing about the legal implications of marijuana use in Kuwait due to clients’ requests. I keep receiving emails from mostly younger western or western educated-clients who mistakenly think that marijuana is “not that bad” in Kuwait. In reality, Kuwait alongside other GCC countries has one of the strictest laws regarding the use of marijuana in the world.
Question: What are the consequences for smoking marijuana in Kuwait?
Fajer: The Penal law in Kuwait was promulgated (issued) in 1960 and has for the most part not changed regarding drug use. Drugs in Kuwait by regulations are listed into three categories regarding how serious or harmful the drug can be and therefore the punishments differ according to the category the drug is in under. Marijuana is illegal in Kuwait in accordance to article number 208, where a person that uses marijuana for personal use and in private can receive up to two years jail and/or a fine not exceeding KD 2,000.
Question: This is going to sound silly, but I heard from someone that even if a person is not smoking, but just sitting next to someone that is smoking, they could get punished? Is this true? What is the logic behind this?
Fajer: Your question is not silly. I have heard the same as well many times, even in Kuwaiti shows. I think the basis to that statement is from Article number 207 of Kuwait Penal Law that states the following, “penalized for a period not exceeding seven years in jail and/or a fine not exceeding KD 7,000 for drug dealing, or making it easier for another person to use drugs.”
The article above mentions that people that are not smoking but are ‘facilitating’ the use for others could be punishable by law as well. So a good example would be if you had your friends over and you were not smoking marijuana but you were in the same room, then technically you ‘made it easier’ for them to smoke and therefore could be punished up to seven years jail, yet they would only be punished up to two years jail.
Question: I lost my wallet and it had marijuana in it. The police called me to pick up my wallet and I am worried to go and pick it up. What should I do?
Fajer: In such a case you really need to hire a lawyer. Some lawyers would be more than happy to twist the facts in order to “save” you from being punished. The lawyer will also help you with what to say and what to do. Unfortunately though, I cannot answer such a question, as I need to know more specifics.
Question: When the police write a report about the use of marijuana how, do they differentiate between personal and commercial use? Is it by the amount of marijuana that is caught on the offender?
Fajer: Well, the answer to your question depends on a few different factors. Generally speaking, yes the amount of marijuana on a person can lead the police report to be worded differently pushing towards personal or commercial use. But other factors can make a difference too. For example, if an offender is caught with a small amount of weed but he also has in his possession a weight and scissors or other equipment used to divide and measure marijuana, then he could easily be accused of possessing marijuana for commercial purposes.
As I have mentioned above, Kuwait’s law is considerably strict when it comes to the use of marijuana and other recreational drugs. Therefore it is best, especially for foreigners that are here to work and find a means of living, to avoid such drugs that might be legal or decriminalized in their own country. Stay safe people.
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By Attorney Fajer Ahmed