Singapore drug law: Changes in Misuse of Drug Act introduce new category of offences

K. Shanmugam believes that these changes "protect children, young persons from the reckless acts of older people."

Changes to drugs law Pixabay

Introducing others to drug traffickers or teaching a person to consume drugs will be considered as an offence as per the amendments to the Misuse of Drug Act that was passed on Tuesday, January 15.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said during the parliamentary debate that the newly introduced category of offences tackles "contaminative behaviours" that may not meet the exact definitions of trafficking or abetment but, "they contribute to the spread of drug abuse and cause harm to others."

As per the new category of offences, soon it will be a crime to instruct someone or provide information to a person on the consumption, cultivation and trafficking of drugs, among the others, having a reason or knowing to believe that the person intends to carry out the drug activity.

Shanmugam added that "Even when the perpetrator has no knowledge of the recipient's intent to commit a drug activity, the perpetrator has still caused harm. He has spread information on the carrying out of drug activities."

As per the amendments, the disseminating or publishing of information on carrying out of drug-related activities will be tackled as an offence and the first-time convicts will be liable to face five years of imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

"This can cover a range of behaviour, from the irresponsible - like posting information on how to manufacture drugs on social media where others can see it - to the downright malicious - such as trying to teach and influence their friends into taking drugs with them," said the minister.

Shanmugam also said that there will be valid defences, which will include purposes related to the administration of justice, science, medicine, education and art, intended not to violate the law.

The changes will also criminalise acts which expose children to drugs. As an example, it is now an offence if an adult leaves the drugs within the easy access of a child. Even an adult will be responsible if he or she allows or would not take the required actions to prevent, a person under 21, from taking drugs that are in the adult's possession.

It should be noted that as per the amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act, it will be mandatory for the parents or the guardians of youth drug abusers, who are under the supervision orders to attend the drug counselling. But, if the authority finds that any guardian has disobeyed or refused to be involved in the counselling process, without any legitimate reasons, then they can be fines or ordered by the court to attend the session.

As per Shanmugam, this serves to "protect children, young persons from the reckless acts of older people" and he believes that "We have to give the next generation the best chance of living a drug-free life. Young people who have already started on drugs, we must provide them with the support to get out of that cycle as quickly as possible."

This article was first published on January 16, 2019