Singapore 'disappointed' by UN vote to remove cannabis from most dangerous drugs list

Staff Writer, Singapore
·Editorial Team
·3-min read
Singapore 'disappointed' by UN body's vote on cannabis
MHA noted that the recommendation to reclassify cannabis was accepted by a “very tight margin”, with 27 members states voting for it, 25 voting against and one member state abstaining from the vote. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — The Singapore government has expressed its disappointment at the outcome of a vote by members of the United Nations’ Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) for cannabis to be removed from the list of world’s most dangerous drugs.

“Singapore is disappointed with this outcome...The acceptance of Recommendation 5.1 could send a wrong signal that the CND has softened its stance against cannabis and fuel public misperception, especially among youths, that cannabis is no longer considered to be as harmful as before, despite strong evidence showing otherwise,” said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in a statement on Thursday (3 December).

On Wednesday, the 53 member states of the CND cast their vote based on recommendations made earlier by the World Health Organisation’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (WHO-ECDD) on cannabis and cannabis-related substances.

MHA noted that the recommendation to reclassify cannabis was accepted by a “very tight margin”, with 27 members states voting for it, 25 voting against and one member state abstaining from the vote. The results will see cannabis and cannabis resin removed from the list of most dangerous drugs in Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

The ministry noted that international control measures for the substances remain unchanged as they “continue to be listed in Schedule I of the 1961 Convention”.

“Nonetheless, this will not impact Singapore’s zero-tolerance stance towards drugs, including cannabis and cannabis-related substances. The international drug control conventions allow countries the flexibility to adopt national control measures that are stricter than required by the conventions,” said MHA.

The ministry added that Singapore had joined other like-minded countries to issue a statement on the issue, which was delivered by Russia.

“These 28 countries were aligned in their stance against the recommendations. They were in agreement that the acceptance of Recommendation 5.1 should not be viewed as an endorsement of recreational cannabis nor lead to further liberalisation of controls over cannabis,” said MHA.

In delivering Singapore’s national statement on the matter, the country’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Umej Bhatia, said that the voting results showed that there is “no international consensus on the WHO-ECDD’s recommendations on cannabis and cannabis-related substances”.

“(The) adoption of recommendation 5.1 today, taken in spite of sharp disagreements between Member States and the dearth of robust and persuasive scientific evidence, fundamentally goes against our principles of consensus and evidence-based drug policy-making, and threatens to undermine our duty to protect public health and welfare,” he said.

In its statement, MHA reiterated its stance on illegal narcotics.

“Illicit drugs, including cannabis, are harmful, addictive and destroy lives, families and communities... Singapore’s harm prevention approach to tackle both drug demand and supply is underpinned by robust research and evidence, and has worked well for us,” said the ministry.

MHA noted that while it would continue to enforce its strict laws against drug use and trafficking, it would also continue to allow safe and controlled access to evidence-based medical treatment options, including cannabinoid pharmaceuticals.

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