Anti-drug efforts now more challenging: Teo
More liberal views towards cannabis dangerous, says minister
With a significant shift in global perception towards drugs and drug abuse, anti-drug efforts have become more challenging.
Youth in Singapore, too, now hold more liberal views towards cannabis, which has the risk of being a gateway to other drugs, said Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo yesterday.
Mrs Teo was the guest of honour at the inaugural Asia Pacific Forum Against Drugs, co-organised by Singapore's National Council Against Drug Abuse (NCADA) and the World Federation Against Drugs.
About 200 delegates from 18 countries are attending the two-day forum.
Mrs Teo said according to the 2019 World Drug Report, one in every 18 people in the world has used drugs at least once last year, an over 30 per cent increase from a decade ago.
The push for cannabis legalisation in many countries, purportedly for its medical properties, is a worrying development, she said.
"In recent years, cannabis has been portrayed as a miracle drug which can cure many ailments and diseases," she said.
Mrs Teo said medical cannabis should refer only to cannabinoids.
She said: "Cannabinoids have had their safety and effectiveness evaluated in controlled clinical trials and have been licensed for use as medicines after experts have assessed their safety, quality and efficacy based on scientific evidence from clinical studies."
With big companies and investors marketing cannabis as a hip and harmless lifestyle product, drug misuse has become more prevalent, added Mrs Teo.
This is dangerous to impressionable youth who are willing to experiment with new things, Dr Chew Tuan Chiong, vice-chairman of NCADA, told the forum.
He raised concerns that more pro-drug lobbyists are gaining ground in pop culture and social media, which sends a dangerous message to young people who may be easily swayed by what they read online.
A 2018 survey by the Ministry of Home Affairs stated that respondents aged 13 to 30 "generally hold a more liberal view on drugs, particularly cannabis".
This is in contrast to 84 per cent of those above 30 who said consumption of cannabis is harmful.
An ex-drug offender, Mr Freddy Wee, 66, told The New Paper yesterday that his heroin addiction started with smoking marijuana.
Before he knew it, he craved for a stronger kick.
Now the deputy director of Breakthrough Missions, which helps addicts to rehabilitate, Mr Wee said he was so addicted he started begging on the streets for money to buy drugs.
"I begged and searched for money to get a fix, even if it was a dollar. When food started to become secondary to drugs, that was when I realised that was no way to live."