SINGAPORE— The international liberalisation trend for cannabis recreational use is one of three key challenges facing the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), said Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State for Home Affairs.
Speaking on Monday (31 May) at CNB’s workplan seminar 2021, Associate Professor Faishal noted that Canada, Uruguay and some US states have legalised cannabis for recreational use. Thailand has legalised cannabis for “so-called medical use”, and allowed the cultivation of up to six cannabis plants per household, he said.
“The harms of cannabis are clear. The adverse effects associated with long-term cannabis use, particularly increased risks of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and psychotic illness, are well-known. On the other hand, there is no evidence at all that raw cannabis is effective in treating any medical condition,” according to Prof Faishal, who is also Minister of State for National Development.
Prof Faishal also expressed worry that international organisations are “supporting narratives that seem to point towards cannabis liberalisation”. He cited the World Health Organisation’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (WHO ECDD), which tabled six recommendations to the 63rd Commission on Narcotic Drugs to lower controls over cannabis and cannabis-related substances.
“These developments are not desirable, and could lead to a normalisation of cannabis abuse. This will propagate more liberal attitudes towards drugs and gradually undermine Singapore’s zero-tolerance stance against drugs,” Prof Faishal said.
Singapore has rallied other countries to reject the recommendations from the WHO ECDD, Prof Faishal said. “This was important to prevent the countries with more liberal drug policies from advancing in their agenda towards cannabis legalisation.”
He also identified the threat of a rise in the number of youths adopting more liberal attitudes towards drug use.
In 2020, those below 30 continued to form the largest group of abusers arrested in Singapore, while three in every five new drug abusers arrested were below 30.
The portrayal of drugs and drug abuse in the media, pop culture and online platforms has contributed to the normalisation of drug abuse, Prof Faishal warned.
The third challenge that CNB faces is the threat of New Psychoactive Substances, which have become the third most commonly abused drug in Singapore since 2018.
To meet these threats, Prof Faishal called for public education and enforcement efforts to be stepped up, and Singapore’s laws to be kept relevant.
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