Nigerian-born artist Burna Boy, 32, revealed that he turned down a $5 million offer to perform in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) because smoking cannabis is banned in the city, and the punishments are severe.
Per the local law, attempting to enter Dubai with cannabis can result in a five-year sentence, and if you’re caught smoking weed there, you might face a minimum of three months behind bars, and you’ll possibly be deported once you’re released. Before changes were made to ease and update drug laws two years ago, travelers caught with weed could face up to 10 years behind bars.
Doing 90 days in prison still does not sound appealing, however. For smokers, the only way to be entirely safe is to simply avoid travel to Dubai. That’s probably why Burna Boy turned down the gig, because he smokes pretty much everywhere he goes and there’s no way to hide those amounts.
We Talk Sound posted a video on X on Oct. 31, showing the rapper freestyling and recounting his feelings about Dubai and places that shun weed to the extreme.
“Just now I turned down Dubai money, five million dollars na small thing ‘cause me I no dey like to dey go where dem no go gree allow me smoke igbo,”
“Igbo” is the common term used in Nigeria to refer to cannabis, and he referred to a gig he refused to do, due to Dubai’s drug policy.
Burna Boy isn’t shy about his love for the herb. When interviewed by Zane Lowe, he provided his thoughts about cannabis. “There is no substance to it, like, nobody is talking about anything, it’s just a great time,” Burna Boy said. “It’s an amazing time.”
He added, “But at the end of the day, life is not an amazing time…you’re still going to face life. So for me, I feel like, music should be that. Music should be the essence of the artist, you understand, the artist is a person. Me speaking for myself, the artist is a person who has good days, bad days, great days, and worst days.”
If You Get Caught with Weed in Dubai, This is What Happens
Dubai is home to some of the strictest cannabis laws on earth, however the country is loosening its harsh stance on drugs over the past few years. The new protocol for Dubai travelers, in effect for only as recently as 2021, is to confiscate and destroy cannabis products instead of imposing hard time, but you’ll still sit in jail for 90 days.
Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the UAE, announced the new changes on November 27, 2021. As part of a series of sweeping changes, people who are convicted of drug-related crimes may serve time in secure detention offering treatment and education instead of prison time. In addition, deportation for non-citizens in drug use and possession cases is no longer mandatory.
Until recently, drug possession was not tolerated in any degree in the UAE. Carrying residual amounts of any drug—including cannabis—could land you years in prison. As little as five years ago, four years was the minimum jail sentence for drug crimes. High Times routinely called it one of the worst countries with some of the “strictest weed laws.”
But the nation updated its outdated laws. The new legislation was outlined in the Official Gazette. The latest issue of the Official Gazette can be downloaded here. First-time offenders will receive minimum sentences of three months as part of a new approach that hopes to integrate “drug users” back into society, but also imposing harsher punishments for serial offenders.
They even punish people for smoking in other countries: After being treated in a hospital, an American was detained in Dubai in 2021 for testing positive for cannabinoids—even though he consumed it in the United States.
In a cautionary and chilling tale that has drawn attention to the United Arab Emirates’ ultra-punitive anti-drug laws, Peter Clark has found himself in legal jeopardy over what appears to be an incredibly unfortunate series of events.
Here’s the backstory, which comes via the website “Detained in Dubai”, a group founded by Radha Stirling that claims to “have helped thousands of victims of injustice over the past ten years”: Clark, a resident of Las Vegas, flew to Dubai on February 24 “to assess professional recording studios.” There, he was rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment for pancreatitis. While at the hospital, personnel conducted a urine test and “found residue traces of hashish.”
High Times frequently reports on high profile arrests, most notably people such as Brittney Griner, which brings up big questions about awareness of strict drug laws in places across the world. Do your homework and avoid places where you can face worse things than hard time—such as corporal or capital punishments.