69 S’poreans, PRs arrested at checkpoints for suspected drug abuse from Jan to Nov 2022, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

69 S’poreans, PRs arrested at checkpoints for suspected drug abuse from Jan to Nov 2022

Between January and November 2022, 69 Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs) were arrested at the checkpoints for suspected drug abuse, the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) said.

This is significantly higher than the number of arrests in 2021, when six local drug abusers were arrested at Changi Airport and the other checkpoints. Thirty such arrests were made in 2020, CNB said in response to queries from The Straits Times.

While the number of arrests has increased with the reopening of Singapore’s borders, it is still lower than before the Covid-19 pandemic, when 132 Singaporeans and PRs were arrested at the checkpoints in 2019.

Enforcement efforts at the checkpoints will remain in place, with CNB reminding the public that it performs checks regularly together with the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).

CNB said: “(We) will not hesitate to take the necessary enforcement action against anyone who flouts Singapore’s drug laws.”

Under Section 8A of the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA), Singapore citizens and permanent residents can be prosecuted if they are caught consuming drugs overseas.

They will be dealt with as if the offence had been committed within Singapore if a urine test confirms they had consumed the drug.

Since March 2022, CNB officers have used a portable drug screening kit that can instantaneously detect more than 30 types of drugs that may be present on suspicious exhibits.

ICA officers at the checkpoints also use Ionscan, a handheld ion scanner that can detect trace amounts of drugs on a person and their belongings.

CNB said that between January and November 2022, more than 300 joint enforcement operations were conducted at Changi Airport. More than 5,400 checks were conducted on travellers there.

Since Singapore’s borders reopened from April 1, passenger volume has been on the rise.

On Dec 18, Transport Minister S. Iswaran announced that up to 150,000 passengers are passing through Changi Airport daily, with about a million passenger movements weekly.

This is about 75 per cent of the average weekly levels that Changi Airport handled before the pandemic.

Meanwhile, ICA and CNB conducted more than 400 enforcement operations at the other checkpoints between January and November 2022. More than 27,000 checks on travellers were conducted. 

Assistant Commissioner Sng Chern Hong, CNB’s deputy director for policy and administration, said: “There has been a strong push by parties with vested interests for more liberal drug policies, and their intense lobbying has brought about changes in the laws in some countries.” 

For instance, Thailand on June 9 became the first country in Asia to decriminalise cannabis nationwide.

AC Sng said: “Proponents of the cannabis legalisation movement have argued that cannabis is a ‘soft’ drug, and that smoking or consuming cannabis or related products has ‘medical’ benefits.

“There is, however, strong scientific evidence of the adverse effects of cannabis use. The World Health Organisation Expert Committee on Drug Dependence has… noted a number of adverse effects associated with long-term cannabis use, particularly increased risk of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and psychotic illness.”

AC Sng reminded the public that the Government’s stance on illicit drugs including cannabis is that they are “harmful, addictive and can destroy lives, families and communities”.

He said: “Persons whose urine is found to be positive for cannabis or other drugs, regardless of the mode through which it was ingested, will be investigated under the MDA. Members of the public are advised to be careful of what they use or consume.”