UN decision on cannabis legalization driven by ‘power of money’, not rationality and science: Shanmugam, Singapore News & Top Stories

SINGAPORE – The recent decision by the United Nations drug agency to decriminalize cannabis is driven by money and profits rather than science and rationality, Secretary of Law and the Interior K. Shanmugam said on Saturday (Dec. 5).

“It’s a decision that worries us,” he said, speaking to the media for the launch of a book on rehabilitation trajectories for ex-offenders.

“I attribute this to the power of money. Businesses are seeing huge profits, and the very nasty idea that cannabis is harmless is being pushed.”

The annual Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the governing body of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, voted on Wednesday to remove cannabis from the most strictly controlled narcotics category, following the World Health Organization’s recommendation to investigate its medical use. to ease.

It was a dire decision, said Mr Shanmugam, with 27 countries voting to remove cannabis from List IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, a global text on drug controls, 25 countries voted against and one abstained.

However, he noted that the evidence that cannabis is harmful is “quite substantial.”

Last year, the renowned medical journal Lancet highlighted a greater risk of psychotic disorders from cannabis abuse. In the same year, the Surgeon General of the United States pointed to three negative effects of cannabis: it affects learning in adolescents, causes a decrease in IQ, and increases the risk of psychotic disorders.

In 2015, the Singapore Institute of Mental Health also reviewed the literature on the subject and presented its findings to the UN.

“The evidence was pretty clear, and I said at the UN, ‘Look, if there’s evidence that it’s not harmful, we’ll change. But so far what we’ve done has worked for us. Nobody has been able to show it. me (different), ” said Mr. Shanmugam.

He said it should be doctors and medical associations who say they need the drug for medical purposes, and if so, then “a framework can be worked out that can be given to the patients who need it, with appropriate safeguards “.

“They shouldn’t be for-profit companies that decide what to buy without a prescription and then say it’s for medical purposes,” he said.

He noted that the profit-driven companies are investing huge sums in the cannabis sector. For example, beer company Constellation has spent $ 4 billion ($ 5.3 billion) since 2017.

Another pharmaceutical company, Purdue Pharma, pushed OxyContin into the US market, causing a massive opioid epidemic in the US. Large numbers of people were affected, Mr Shanmugam said, but shareholders benefited as billions of dollars in profits were made.

The company was later sued and filed for bankruptcy, but it was too late because the damage had already been done, he said.

Mr Shanmugam said: “So the real question is whether policy in this area should be done by governments or by lobbyists and companies?

“In Singapore we are impervious to such lobbying activities. We look with a very clear eye at what is the common good, and we take a position. But you know, in other countries that is not the case,” he said.

Mr Shanmugam said the consequences in places where cannabis has been legalized are “concerning”.

For example, in the US state of Colorado, it is estimated that for every US $ 1 received in drug sales taxes, US $ 4.50 is spent dealing with the negative consequences.

The number of property crimes is up by 8 percent, the number of other violent crimes by about 19 percent and the number of deaths from cannabis-related accidents by 151 percent.

Mr Shanmugam stressed that “we must maintain the line in Singapore” by convincing the population with rational and scientific arguments, as well as by trying to convince the international community.

“I think if it was based on rationality and science, I have no doubt that we will succeed. But we are also fighting the power of money in other countries,” he said.

Mr Shanmugam added that while the fight against drugs can never be won, Singapore is “one of the few countries in the world where we have tackled it successfully”, and that the country is largely drug-free.

He noted that the rising number of first-time drug users being arrested is worrying, especially the misuse of new psychoactive substances.

He said Singapore has moved from treating drug offenses as a crime to treating first-time offenders as needy.

While the authorities are trying to ward off drug addicts, it is the traffickers and “big organizers” who are the main targets of the crackdown, Mr Shanmugam said.

“We have managed to keep it under control in Singapore, but you have to be constantly vigilant. And there is also international fighting,” he said.

“We have to put forward our position, convince countries that it is in their common interest as well as ours that we fight this together.”

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