Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam told Channel NewsAsia that the trend towards accepting cannabis for medical use is driven by the “power of money and propaganda”, as he charged pharmaceutical companies with hiding their intentions behind a smokescreen.
Last December, Thailand became the first country in Southeast Asia to legalise the use of cannabis for medical purposes, although the country has some of the world’s harshest penalties for drug-law violations. Malaysia and the Philippines have considered following suit.
The minister’s comment came before a joint statement on Wednesday (13 February) by the Home Affairs and Health ministries, which tells the Government’s position on the use of pharmaceutical products containing cannabinoids – chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant.
The ministries made a difference between such pharmaceutical products with potential therapeutic uses, and products containing unprocessed or raw cannabis – which they affirmed have harmful and addictive effects.
“To date, there are no studies which have validated the claims of unprocessed or raw cannabis being able to treat medical conditions,” they claimed.
However, Mr Shanmugam told the programme Insight that pharmaceutical companies are pushing a different line for financial gain.
“The research, in our view, is quite clear. The Institute of Mental Health (IMH) did a review of 500 articles between 1964 and 2015 on the effects of cannabis. It causes serious brain damage. One in two get addicted,” he said.
“The companies, which are interested in making money out of this – really dealing in destruction and death – have found a new way of arguing it.”
The papers reviewed had been published in medical journals and other literature by international medical bodies. The IMH research team concluded that “cannabis consumption is associated with irreversible brain damage, brain shrinkage and serious mental/psychiatric illnesses”, the statement read.
On the other hand, they found that are some medicine with cannabinoid products that are scientifically researched and medically approved. These can be administered through pharmaceutical products such as oral solutions and sprays.
However, the ministries iterated that such cannabinoid pharmaceuticals will have to be reviewed by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) before they can be registered for supply in Singapore.
“Manufacturers are required to substantiate the safety, quality and efficacy of the cannabinoid pharmaceuticals based on scientific evidence from clinical studies and data on the manufacturing process,” read the joint statement.
Mr Shanmugam continued by saying that company have taken that concept – the potential medical use of cannabinoids – and labelled it as ‘cannabis is good for you for medicinal purposes’, while spending a lot of money advertising it.
“Some governments, quite frankly, then also look at the potential tax revenues. Though that’s a bum game, because I think in the states that have legalised, they find that the cost associated with increased health-related problems far outstrip any tax revenues,” he added.
Are politicians doctors now?
Upon reading this views, netizens questioned Mr Shanmugam’s view and asked if he is a doctor to opine that cannabis is harmful to one’s health.
Cannabis can be helpful in the medical field
Some opined that cannabis is proven to work in the medical field.
Why is the government still selling alcohol and cigarette?
Since Mr Shanmugam said that cannabis can have harmful effects, the public asked why other harmful and addictive substance are still allowed in Singapore.
Cannabis is indeed harmful to health and should not be legalised
However, there are a bunch of netizens who agree with Mr Shanmugam and think that cannabis should not be made legal in Singapore.