Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam recently branded the United Nations’ (UN) decision to reclassify cannabis for medical purposes as a less dangerous drug as one driven by the “power of money”.
Firstly, it appears odd and out of turn for a Minister to publicly criticise an international body such as the UN.
Secondly, this criticism seems hypocritical, particularly because the Singapore Government is not one that seems adverse to making decisions on the basis of the “power of money” either.
Let’s take the construction of casinos as an example.
While Singaporeans now accept the presence of the casinos in Singapore as a matter of fact, it must be remembered that when it was first mooted, many Singaporeans were vociferously opposed to it!
Many saw gambling as a vice that might also invite other social ills.
Yet, the Government went ahead with it on the basis of the economy. Was that not a decision made by the authorities precisely because of the “power of money”?
There are indeed scientific studies that confirm the utility of cannabis for medical use.
The utility of the casinos in Singapore, however, is still open for debate.
Shanmugam may not have been a Minister in 2005, but he should have perhaps conducted further research before rushing to criticise the UN’s apparent sway by money.
We also have the issue of alcohol and cigarettes. Both of these substances, while possibly just as harmful, are still legal. It is also noteworthy that the taxes levied on such items are very high.
In fact, People’s Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Nee Soon Group Representative Constituency (GRC) Louis Ng had recently spoken up about the ills of smoking in Parliament.
He was so against smoking that he wanted to outlaw people smoking in certain areas of their own home!
In other words, smoking is considered so harmful that Ng was suggesting the policing of people in their own homes just to regulate this vice!
Yet, smoking remains very much legal. Is this not yet another example of a decision made on the basis of the “power of money”, namely to stop people from smoking in their own homes but sell them highly taxed cigarettes anyway.
Shanmugam said that “the evidence that it (Cannabis) is harmful is quite substantive”.
Without offering commentary on the merits of this view, the question, however, remains – what are the Minister’s views on smoking, drinking alcohol and gambling then?
While it is fair to consider economic benefits in any decision to be made, it is also disingenuous to somehow criticise others for making decisions that entail monetary benefits when the government itself also regularly does this and continues to do so.