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Billy Hood, 25, from Kensington, London, was working as a football coach in the UAE when police discovered four small bottles of the CBD oil derived from cannabis, and a vape pen, in his car and arrested him on 31 January. British football coach Billy Hood has been stuck in a Dubai prison since 2021, when he was caught and charged with CBD possession. How did this happen?

Billy Hood: Briton jailed in Dubai for possessing CBD vape oil has term cut from 25 years to 10 – despite new laws allowing for deportation

Billy Hood, 25, from Kensington, London, was working as a football coach in the UAE when police discovered four small bottles of the CBD oil derived from cannabis, and a vape pen, in his car and arrested him on 31 January.

Tuesday 30 November 2021 23:31, UK

A British football coach who was jailed for 25 years in Dubai for possessing CBD vape oil has had his sentenced reduced to 10 years on appeal.

It comes after the United Arab Emirates recently said it would bring in new laws meaning foreigners found to be in possession of products containing THC, the main intoxicating chemical in cannabis, can be deported rather than jailed as long as it is their first offence.

Billy Hood, 25, from Kensington, London, was working as a football coach in the UAE when police discovered four small bottles of the CBD oil derived from cannabis, and a vape pen, in his car and arrested him on 31 January.

He was convicted of drug trafficking with intent to supply by a court and has been held ever since.

CBD oil, which is derived from cannabis, is legal in the UK but because it sometimes contains trace elements of THC it is not tolerated under the UAE’s strict drug laws.

Mr Hood says the bottles and vape pen were left in his car by a friend he had driven to the airport two weeks prior to his arrest, and that he was forced to sign a confession written in Arabic after being held in appalling conditions for four days.

He says he was refused a translator and told he would not be released from his cell, where he was held with 30 other men and given only bread and water, unless he signed the document.

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On Tuesday, his mother, Breda Guckion, said she was feeling “broken” by the latest legal ruling, adding: “It’s very confusing. How can this have escalated as far as it has?

“I tried not to get my hopes up for today as I knew something like this might happen, but I now have to face the possibility that I may not see my son before Christmas and I can’t tell you how broken I am feeling.”

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The campaign group Detained in Dubai, which is lobbying for the Briton’s release, said: “Abu Dhabi Courts accept Billy Hood did not traffic nor sell the CBD vape oil left in his car by a visiting friend.

“They accept that he ‘unintentionally possessed’ the CBD but have sentenced him to 10 years in prison, despite new legislation eliminating prison sentences for foreigners found in possession and allowing for deportation.”

Radha Stirling, chief executive of Detained in Dubai, said: “The UAE has just claimed they will eliminate prison sentences for foreigners found to be in possession of THC products, opting for deportation instead but this law does not come into effect until January 2022 and may not apply retroactively.”

She added: “Dubai police were extremely negligent when they charged Billy Hood with trafficking and selling the mini bottles of CBD vape oil found in his car.

“They turned what would have been a small possession case at worst into a federal case that has seen him locked up for almost a year and facing a life sentence in Abu Dhabi.

“There was no evidence whatsoever of trafficking and none of selling. Dubai’s overzealous prosecution has ruined this young man’s life and put him and his family through hell.

“Billy was forced to confess to federal crimes with promises of his imminent release. He was given both a carrot and a stick, so some prosecutor could get his dues. It’s all too familiar a story.”

A clemency request has been submitted by the Foreign Office for Billy’s release and a petition set up by the family has attracted almost 160,000 signatures.

“We pray every day for Billy’s release,” said Billy’s brother Alex.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are giving consular support to a British man who has been imprisoned in the UAE. We are in contact with his family in the UK.”

Earlier this year, the UAE government said: “The General Directorate for Drug Control (GDDC) received a tip-off that Mr Billy Hood, possessed quantities of synthetic cannabis oil with the intention of selling.

“Consequently, Mr Hood was apprehended on 2 February 2021 and then charged with drug trafficking, following the search of the vehicle he was driving.

“Mr Hood was found to be in possession of quantities of synthetic cannabis oil, known scientifically as ‘MDMB-4en-PINACA’.

“The police search of Mr Hood’s vehicle found the cannabis oil, substantial amounts of cash, an electronic hookah, various storage bottles and boxes, and 570 individual cartridges to be used for substance vaping.

“Mr Hood was convicted based on evidence including the items found in his possession, information on his phone, third party statement, and his own confession.”

It added that Mr Hood had access to an interpreter at all times, his ruling was made in accordance with UAE law, and that the substance in question has no therapeutic use.

Brit sentenced to 10 years in prison in Dubai – for CBD oil

The laws and regulations surrounding CBD can sometimes be complicated and confusing, but they are usually not that scary.

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When you live in Europe, USA or Canada, the worst thing that can happen if you accidentally break some laws regarding CBD is that your products will be confiscated and you might get a fine. Not great, but also not so bad.

  • A British national living in Dubai got arrested for CBD possession
  • He was sentenced for 25 years in prison
  • The sentence was reduced to 10 years
  • He is currently in prison, with no chance for release in the foreseeable future

However, even though CBD is legal and accepted in many parts of the world, there are still selected places where one can get into a lot of trouble if caught with Cannabidiol (CBD). For example, the approach toward CBD in the UAE is rigorous, and expats and tourists may pay a very high price for having any CBD products on them. This was the case with Billy Hood – a Brit sentenced to 25 years in prison for CBD vapes that were not even his.

How is that possible, and could this happen to you?

Who is Billy Hood?

Billy is a 24-year-old football player and coach who moved to Dubai in 2020. Like so many other young internationals, Billy had hoped relocating to the UAE would be an excellent career move. The salaries of coaches in the UAE are much higher than in the UK, and jobs for internationals are widely available.

Shortly after moving to the country, Billy started working with children and teenagers as a football coach. As he settled in, some of his friends from the UK came to visit. Unfortunately, one of them brought some CBD vapes, which would turn out to be a huge mistake.

What happened to Billy Hood?

In 2021, Billy’s friend came to visit. Billy drove straight home after picking his friend up from Dubai airport. When he later left his apartment to fetch a charger from his car, he was met by local police who accused him of drug possession. The police proceeded to search his car, his flat, and Billy himself. He did not object, as he had nothing to hide and wanted to get this misunderstanding solved quickly.

Unfortunately, that is not what happened. Instead, the police officers found 4 small CBD vape cartridges in Billy’s car, most likely left behind by the friend who had visited Billy previously.

The police arrested Billy and accused him of possessing and selling drugs. It is believed that they based their accusations on his WhatsApp conversations that included some drug-related keywords, and which the police monitored.

After being detained, Billy was presented with confession documents which the authorities demanded he signs. His request to see a translation from Arabic to English was rejected. Instead, he was told that the only way to leave the detention was to sign a confession he did not understand.

Billy refused. He was then put in isolation without access to any hygienic products and remained there for 14 days. It was too much for him to handle. Finally, Billy broke and signed the untrue confession when pressured by the police again.

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The confession was followed by a sentence of 25 years in prison. After Billy’s lawyers appealed to overturn the verdict, the sentence was reduced to 10 years. The decision was made without the court ever listening to the lawyer’s arguments or Billy appearing in court.

Is CBD legal in the UAE?

The UAE is one of the strictest countries in the world when it comes to drug laws. And according to the UAE – CBD is a drug.

Any drug possession is illegal in the UEA. It is even illegal to have drugs in your bloodstream. This includes drugs and medication consumed in a country where they are entirely legal.

Can someone from the UK or the EU be sentenced for CBD oil they purchased back home?

CBD, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid derived from a cannabis plant, is legal in many countries.

As it does not get users high, it is not considered a drug – as confirmed by the European Court of Justice ruling from 2020.

CBD is a supplement with many potential health benefits, helping people cope with various symptoms of health issues every day. Yet, there is no global consensus on the legal status of CBD, and each country has its own rules and regulations. This even applies to countries within the EU.

When you travel with CBD, it does not matter what the laws are at the place of your departure. Instead, the CBD laws at your final destination (and transit, if you have one) are what matter.

Many people are not aware of these rules. As a result, they are often met with a fine and the confiscation of their products.

Yet, some countries have such strict drug policies that the punishment is much more brutal. UAE is one of those countries, and this is why Billy is currently in prison.

Are there other innocent internationals in prisons in Dubai?

The case of Billy is far from being the only one.

Detained In Dubai is an organisation helping foreigners stuck in UAE’s jails and prisons. According to the organisation, it’s very common for UAE police to arrest expats for shockingly minor offences. For example, people have been arrested for “specs of dust” in their bags, consuming alcohol, having poppy seeds found on their clothing, or 0.003 grams of cannabis stuck to the sole of a shoe.

According to the organisation, local authorities are known for forcing false confessions, committing shocking human rights violations, and keeping innocent people in jail.

There are many more people like Billy, and what makes this so frightening is that this could happen to any one of us. Because Billy is not a criminal. He is just a young man who got extremely unlucky.

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