Earlier this week (Mar 21), Minister of State (MOS) for Home Affairs Dr Faishal Ibrahim announced a new legislative framework to tackle the rise of new psychoactive substances (NPS) among drug abusers.
Under the updated approach, authorities can deal with the NPS threat based on their capacity to produce a psychoactive effect rather than their molecular structure.
According to MOS Faishal, this change will stop authorities from playing catch-up with drug syndicates, who are known to modify the molecular structure of NPS to create new variants and slip through the law.
In addition, MOS Faishal also shared that Singapore will impose harsher punishments for those in possession of larger quantities of drugs.
To some fractions of society, our tough and no-nonsense stance on drugs is excessive and an oddity for such a forward-looking city.
After all, the worldwide view towards drug use today ranges from begrudging acceptance to outright liberalisation.
But here is the thing about governance in Singapore. We do not follow trends. Instead, standing our ground and doing what is best for the country is what makes us such a safe and secure nation.
Building a drug-free society
Exposure to popular culture has normalised the use of drugs, resulting in a more laissez-faire attitude towards the use of cannabis and other hallucinogenic substances among young people.
Not only is this reflected in a survey on public perception of drugs, but statistics released by the Central Narcotics Bureau also show worrying trends of increased cannabis seizures and drug users under 30 years old.
Along with a global shift in attitude towards drugs, critics of our zero-tolerance drug policy would see such figures as reasons to relax the law.
However, the mantra “if you can’t beat them, join them” is simply not applicable to something that causes great harm — not just to the individual who consumes them but to families and society at large as well.
Drugs, even “soft” varieties such as cannabis and NPS, are no less harmful than traditional “hard” drugs.
As MOS Faishal mentioned in his speech, the psychoactive effects that an NPS causes are similar to that of a controlled drug, and abusing it can lead to acts of crime, violence, adverse psychological reactions and even death from overdosing.
Lastly, rather than viewing countries that have decriminalised drug consumption as some form of liberal heaven, it is worth understanding why they do so in the first place.
Within ASEAN, Thailand has legalised the growing and consumption of marijuana to boost agriculture and tourism. However, is that the best decision for its people through the lens of public health?
Fundamentally, our zero-tolerance approach towards drugs is rooted in scientific evidence and a desire to create the best living environment for all Singaporeans.
And to continue building a drug-free society, Singapore must continue to review and refine our laws to keep pace with evolving drug trends.
This latest amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Bill does exactly that by nipping the problem of NPS in the bud before it has the chance to run rampant and cause harm.
Echoing what MOS Faishal said, while many countries have “given up” because drug use has become so prevalent that the only practical approach is to reduce the harm, Singapore is in a unique position to continue keeping drugs at bay and prevent them from harming us.
Photo Source: Central Narcotics Bureau/MHA