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Drug Abuse and Rehabilitation

Second Reading Speech for the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2006, Ministry of Home Affairs

Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move that the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill be now read a second time.

Introduction

2 Sir, the Singapore drug situation has improved significantly as compared to a decade ago. The number of drug abusers arrested dropped from over 6,000 in 1994 to less than 800 in 2005. The number of new abusers also dropped from about 1,300 in 1994 to around 450 in 2005. In addition, the total drug abuser population in Drug Rehabilitation Centres, or DRCs, which was at a record high of around 8,900 in 1994, has decreased to only about 190 in 2005. The relapse rate of drug abusers has also declined from 68% in 1994 to about 5% in 2005.

3 But as I have said many times before, the war against drugs is not over. While the overall drug situation has improved, there is the emerging threat of synthetic drugs such as ‘Ecstasy’, Ketamine, Methamphetamine, and Nimetazepam. Indeed, the trafficking and abuse of synthetic drugs continues to be a major concern in the region. Some countries in the region have become major producers of methamphetamine. Last year, clandestine laboratories used for the production of methamphetamine and ‘Ecstasy’ were dismantled in some of these countries, including one laboratory with a production capacity of 100,000 ‘Ecstasy’ tablets per hour. Sizeable drug storage facilities were also discovered.

4 Our proximity to these countries makes us vulnerable to potential spillover effects. In fact, synthetic drug abusers made up about three quarters (78%) of the drug abusers arrested in Singapore in 2005. We must therefore continue to keep our local drug situation under control, as the worsening drug situation in our neighbouring countries can have an adverse impact on us.

5 Sir, the objectives of the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill that I am presenting today are to provide for better drug enforcement and deterrence, particularly against synthetic drugs, and to enhance the operational efficiency of the Central Narcotics Bureau. Let me now explain the key amendments.

Key Amendments to the MDA

Stiffer Penalties Against Trafficking in Ketamine

6 First, the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) amendments provide for stiffer penalties against trafficking in Ketamine.

7 Ketamine was first listed as a Class B controlled drug in September 1999. As a Class B controlled drug, the penalties for trafficking in Ketamine are 3 to 20 years of imprisonment and 3 to 10 strokes of the cane.

8 From 2000 to 2003, both the number of Ketamine abusers and traffickers saw significant increases. The number of Ketamine abusers increased from 78 in 2000 to 497 in 2003, while the number of traffickers increased from 23 in 2000 to 152 in 2003. In 2004, the Ketamine abuse situation registered an improvement for the first time with a 38% drop in the number of Ketamine abusers to 306, while the number of Ketamine traffickers arrested remained relatively constant at 150.

9 The Ketamine abuse situation continues to show an improvement in 2005. The number of abusers decreased from 306 in 2004 to 201 in 2005. The number of Ketamine traffickers has also decreased, from 150 to 102 in 2004 and 2005 respectively.

10 Although the abuse and trafficking of Ketamine has declined in 2005, Ketamine abusers and traffickers continue to form the majority of abusers and traffickers arrested. Indeed, Ketamine abusers formed the largest proportion of abusers arrested at 26%, while Ketamine traffickers formed 24% of traffickers arrested in 2005. In addition, despite the improved situation in Ketamine abuse, the seizure of Ketamine in 2005 increased to 8 kg as compared to 4.7 kg in 2004.

11 To deter would-be offenders from trafficking in Ketamine, Clause 12 of the MDA Bill amends the First Schedule to upgrade Ketamine from a Class B to a Class A controlled drug. This would increase the penalties for trafficking in Ketamine to 5 to 20 years of imprisonment and 5 to 15 strokes of the cane.

12 In addition, Clause 5 of the MDA Bill amends Section 17 to extend the presumption clause for trafficking to Ketamine. Any person who has in his possession more than 113 grammes of Ketamine shall be presumed to be in possession of Ketamine for the purpose of trafficking and the onus is on him to prove that his possession of Ketamine was not for that purpose. This amount is equivalent to 100 times the estimated daily dosage of the drug. This basis is the same as that used for deriving the presumption amounts for other drugs such as methamphetamine, ‘Ecstasy’ and heroin.

13 These changes will bring Ketamine on par with the other synthetic drugs like Methamphetamine and ‘Ecstasy’, which are already Class A controlled drugs.

Long-Term Imprisonment Regime for Recalcitrant Synthetic Drug Abusers

14 Let me now turn to the next key amendment, which is the proposed Long-Term imprisonment regime for recalcitrant synthetic drug abusers.

15 The Long-Term imprisonment regime for recalcitrant heroin abusers was first introduced in 1998. Under this regime, heroin abusers who do not change after 2 admissions into the Drug Rehabilitation Centres (DRCs) will be charged in court if they are arrested for the third time or more. If they are convicted, they will be sentenced to prison for 5 to 13 years and given 3 to 12 strokes of the cane.

16 The Long-Term imprisonment regime was a major factor in breaking the heroin problem. This tough policy achieved its purpose of taking recalcitrant heroin abusers out of circulation to prevent them from contaminating others in becoming drug abusers. It also stopped hardcore heroin abusers from continuing with their drug-taking habits.

17 In July last year, the Prisons Department implemented a new rehabilitation regime in the DRCs, specially tailored to the treatment of first and second-time synthetic drug abusers. These include abusers of ‘Ecstasy’, Ketamine, Methamphetamine, and Nimetazepam. However, while a rehabilitative approach is taken for these synthetic drug abusers, there is also a need to deal firmly with recalcitrant abusers for persisting with their drug habit and to deter potential drug abusers from falling into the drug trap.

18 Hence, Clause 8 of the MDA Bill amends Section 33A to place synthetic drug abusers who are arrested for the third time or more on the Long-Term imprisonment regime. Similar to the current LT1 regime for heroin abusers, these synthetic drug abusers will be sent to prison for a minimum of 5 years and a maximum of 7 years, and will be given a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 6 strokes of the cane. Those who relapse upon their release from LT1 will be sentenced to a minimum of 7 years and a maximum of 13 years’ imprisonment, as well as a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 12 strokes of the cane. Essentially, this new approach means that regardless of whether it is heroin or synthetic drugs, abusers will be subject to the same penalty regime.

Inclusion of ‘Foxy’ (5-MeO-DIPT) as a Class A Drug

19 The next amendment is the inclusion of a new synthetic drug ‘Foxy’ as a Class A controlled drug.

20 In Aug 2004, there were two seizures of the synthetic drug ‘Foxy’ at Zouk Disco. This drug belongs to a class of chemicals known as Tryptamines (pronounced as ‘trip-ter-mins’). It is currently not controlled under the MDA, although several other Tryptamines have already been listed as Class A controlled drugs in the Act. ‘Foxy’ abusers will typically experience a multitude of effects, which include hallucinations, euphoria, dilated pupils, visual and auditory disturbances or distortions, and emotional distress. The Health Sciences Authority, or HSA, has advised the Central Narcotics Bureau, or CNB, to consider including it as a Class A controlled drug.

21 The Singapore Medical Council and the Centre for Drug Administration, or CDA, have no objections to including ‘Foxy’ as a Class A controlled drug in the MDA. CDA also pointed out that there is no known medicinal or clinical use for this substance. Hence, Clause 12 of the MDA Bill amends the First Schedule to include ‘Foxy’ as a Class A controlled drug.

DNA Profiling of Drug Abusers Committed to DRCs and Drug Supervisees

22 I will now address the issue of DNA profiling of drug abusers committed to DRCs and drug supervisees.

23 DNA profiling is widely used in forensic investigations in many countries. The Registration of Criminals Act was amended in 2002 to provide for the establishment of a DNA database of criminals convicted in courts. Further, in 2004, the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions), or CL(TP) Act, was amended to provide for the taking of body samples for DNA profiling, in addition to finger impressions and photographs, of persons arrested, detained or placed on supervision under the CL(TP) Act.

24 However, there is currently no provision in the MDA for the taking and keeping of body samples for DNA profiling, in addition to finger impressions and photographs, for drug abusers committed to DRCs and drug supervisees. As drug abusers have been known to turn to crime to feed their addictions, it is important that the DNA profiles, finger impressions and photographs of these drug abusers are collected and stored for purposes of investigation.

25 Hence, Clause 10 of the MDA Bill inserts new sections 40A to 40D into the MDA to provide for the taking and keeping of body samples for DNA profiling, finger impressions and photographs of drug abusers committed to DRCs and drug supervisees. A similar amendment will be made to the Intoxicating Substances Act, which I will cover later during the Second Reading of the Intoxicating Substances (Amendment) Bill.

Other Amendments to the MDA

26 Sir, the Bill also introduces other amendments to the MDA to enhance the operational efficiency and effectiveness of the CNB. Let me highlight the more important ones.

Extension of the Period of Supervision for Drug Abusers

27 The Director of the CNB is currently empowered under the MDA to make a supervision order on drug abusers for a period not exceeding two years. However, there is no provision in the MDA to empower him to extend the supervision order which may be necessary if the order is disrupted when the supervisee commits a drug or penal offence and goes into prison, or stays overseas on employment. Clauses 9 and 11 of the MDA Bill thus amend Sections 34 and 58 respectively to empower the Director of CNB to extend the period of supervision of drug abusers for a period not exceeding 2 years, if these abusers did not successfully complete the 2 years of supervision because they absconded or were imprisoned for other offences.

Engagement of Other Service Providers for Conducting Drug Analysis

28 Next, Clause 4 of the MDA Bill amends Section 16 of the MDA to allow CNB to employ the services of other laboratories, other than the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), to conduct drug analysis.

29 This amendment is made because, currently, the MDA states that a certificate signed by an analyst employed by the HSA shall be admitted as prima facie evidence for an offence under the respective Acts. If CNB engages the services of other laboratories to conduct drug analysis, the findings of these laboratories will not be deemed as prima facie evidence and may be subject to challenge in court. Hence, these amendments will ensure that CNB is not restricted to rely only on HSA for conducting drug analysis. Similar amendments will also be made to the Intoxicating Substances Act, which I will explain later during the Second Reading of the Intoxicating Substances (Amendment) Bill.

Conclusion

30 Mr Speaker Sir, to conclude, although the overall drug situation remains under control, we must press on resolutely with our efforts. In particular, if the new generation of Singaporeans see synthetic drugs as fashionable and acceptable, we will be down a very slippery slope. There is therefore a need to continue to be vigilant and to inculcate zero tolerance against all forms of illegal drugs at all levels of society.

31 In this context, these amendments to the MDA will provide for better drug enforcement and deterrence and enable us to gear up for the new battlefront of synthetic drugs in our war against drugs.

32 Mr Speaker Sir, I beg to move.



Please also see:

Second Reading Speech for the Intoxicating Substances (Amendment) Bill 2006, Ministry of Home Affairs

Last updated on 21 Jun 2007
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