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(Stock image for illustration purposes) Any citizen or permanent resident found to have abused controlled drugs overseas will be treated as if he or she had abused drugs in Singapore. Reuters

SINGAPORE: Amid reports that Singapore’s neighbours could legalise marijuana for medical use as early as next year, the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) reiterated its tough stance on drugs on Friday.

Any citizen or permanent resident found to have abused controlled drugs overseas will be treated as if he or she had abused drugs in Singapore, the bureau said.

The CNB conducts enforcement checks at Singapore’s checkpoints and will take action against those found to have consumed drugs overseas, it added.

Marijuana is also known as cannabis, pot and weed.

In its advisory, the CNB did not refer to any specific country but said it was “aware of ongoing discussions in some countries” on the safety and legality of products containing tetrahydrocannabinol – the active ingredient in cannabis – for recreational and medical use.

Thai media reported last month that the country could amend the law to allow cannabis for medicinal use by May next year.

Thailand’s Governmental Pharmaceutical Organisation has also started researching the development of medicines from the drug, reported Thai news outlet The Nation. But recreational use of the drug will still be illegal.

Malaysia has also begun talks on legalising cannabis for medical use, with its Minister of Water, Land and Natural Resources Xavier Jayakumar telling reporters last month that the Malaysian Cabinet “very briefly” discussed its medicinal value and had started informal talks on amending relevant laws.

Further away, Canada this month became the second country in the world to legalise recreational marijuana, after Uruguay in 2013.

On Friday, Singapore’s CNB maintained there is “scant evidence of the safety and efficacy of long-term cannabis use”.

A literature review done by the Institute of Mental Health affirmed the addictive and harmful nature of cannabis, and that it damages the brain, said the bureau.

“These findings corroborate our position that cannabis should remain an illicit drug,” it said.

Possession or consumption of cannabis here can lead to jail terms of up to 10 years and a fine of up to S$20,000.

Those who traffic, import or export certain quantities of cannabis may face the death sentence.

The CNB said that Singapore’s approach to drugs has allowed it to remain relatively drug-free.

Last year, the number of drug abusers arrested comprised less than 0.1 per cent of the total population.

Earlier in September, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said the opioid crisis in the United States and its growing cannabis problems underscore why Singapore must take a “firm and clear-headed” approach on drugs and not have the problem “spiral out of control”.

Until scientists can isolate the medical properties of marijuana, and administer it without the side effects of the drug, it cannot be considered a medical aid, he said.

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