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Review on cannabis ban in Singapore subject to “scientific evidence”: Ministry of Home Affairs

Following Malaysia’s hints at legalising marijuana for medical purposes in light of the backlash against the sentencing of death penalty of a man convicted for dealing with cannabis oil, Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has declared on Thursday (27 Sep) that any review on the Republic’s stance on the drug must have a basis in “scientific evidence”.

In response to TODAY Online’s queries, a spokesperson from the Ministry reaffirmed that Singapore’s current regulatory framework on “illicit” drugs are rooted in scientific evidence and medical research, adding that literature review by the Institute of Mental Health supports the view that marijuana is addictive and harmful, particularly to the brain.

The spokesperson argued: “On the other hand, evidence of cannabis’ long-term safety and efficacy is scarce.”

“These findings corroborate our position that cannabis should remain an illicit drug. Even if cannabinoid pharmaceuticals have to be used for medical purposes, there are carefully established frameworks in Singapore for their clinical prescription,” she emphasised.

The spokesperson reiterated that Singapore “adopts a comprehensive and sustained approach to tackling both drug supply and demand,” adding that the “decriminalisation and legalisation of drugs, including cannabis, is not relevant, nor necessary or appropriate in societies such as ours, with the drug situation well under control.”

Singapore is well-known for its hardline, rigid regulatory framework against drugs.

Just this month, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam cited the epidemic of drug addiction in the United States, and argued that its growing cannabis-related problems serve exactly as to why Singapore must take a “firm and clear-headed” approach on drugs before the problem will “spiral out of control”.

Reportedly, the hardline stance against the recreational use of drugs has contributed to what appears to be a virtually drug-free Singapore. Last year, it was purported that the number of drug abusers arrested make up less than 0.1 per cent of the Republic’s population.

Notably, the National Research Foundation (NRF) under the National University of Singapore (NUS) has recently announced a new Synthetic Biology Research and Development (R&D) Programme, which will cost $25mil over the next five years, and one of the four projects selected to receive a research grant is a project by Associate Professor Yew Wen Shan from SynCTI, who will “explore novel biosynthetic pathways for the sustainable and proprietary production of national strains of medicinal cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant for therapeutics that could be used to treat a range of diseases, such as those related to metabolism or reproduction, or age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.”

Cannabinoids include tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the psychoactive element of weed) and cannabidiol (CBD, which is used for pain relief and produces no high).

In a media release by NUS, it was stated that the research on developing synthetic medicinal cannabis “will be done by translating selective genetic information provided by overseas partners into potent therapeutic compounds not found in nature through synthetic biology.”