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Death penalty an important tool in drug fight: Shanmugam

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Home Affairs and Law Minister says 'more liberal approach to drugs' will result in more crimes and deaths

The death penalty is not the solution that solves all problems, but part of a larger framework that includes reducing the drug supply and rehabilitating offenders, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday.

"The stakes are made very clear upfront and that, I think, has a very powerful influence on those who seek to traffic drugs into Singapore," said Mr Shanmugam at the opening of the second Asia-Pacific Forum Against Drugs at the ParkRoyal hotel in Beach Road.

Singapore does not take any joy and comfort in having the death penalty, he said, adding that it "saves more lives", including those of families ruined by drug addiction.

He said there is an "undoubted number of deaths that will occur if you take a more liberal approach towards drugs", with a rise in homicides and other crimes leading to death not being theoretical arguments.

Mr Shanmugam also urged local and foreign stakeholders to have an open mind, be it towards the death penalty, laws, or use of drugs as medicine, and "not to be ideological about it".


He warned that advocates of decriminalisation use arguments that are not substantiated by medical research or evidence.

The one-day forum, organised by the National Council Against Drug Abuse, gathered local and foreign delegates from government and non-government organisations, as well as civil society groups, to discuss how to counter calls globally for drug liberalisation.

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of the event, Dr Kevin Sabet, director of Florida's Drug Policy Institute in the US, called the growing use of cannabis a "slow-motion disaster".

Besides seeing products containing stronger amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) - the primary active ingredient in cannabis - on the market in the form of cookies and candies that are attractive to children, he added that in Colorado, more young people are being taken to hospital for THC poisoning.

Among those who are vulnerable, Dr Sabet added, are children aged five and below.

Colorado, which legalised recreational marijuana use in 2014, has also become the top state for youth cannabis use, he added.

The positivity rate for workplace marijuana tests also tripled since the year Colorado legalised recreational cannabis.

In 2011, this was 2.7 per cent, while last year, it was 8.9 per cent, Dr Sabet said, citing clinical laboratory services company Quest Diagnostics.

Ms Linda Nilsson, secretary-general of the World Federation Against Drugs, highlighted the lack of local implementation of international agreements as a challenge in drug prevention, which "should always be the core of drug policy".

Iceland has seen some success in prevention, with cannabis use among teens aged 15 and 16 dropping to 7 per cent from 17 per cent, between 1998 and last year.

Mr Jon Sigfusson, director of the Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis, said this was achieved by strengthening preventive factors.

These include increasing the time teens spend with their parents and reducing risk factors that lead youth to drug use.

Liberal stance on drugs is ‘reckless’

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