Published: 19 November 2018
Strengthening Rehabilitation Regime for Drug Abusers and Enhancing Robustness of Drug Control Framework
1. The Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2018 was introduced for First Reading in Parliament today.
2. The Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) serves as the legal framework for the control of dangerous or harmful drugs. It provides for the enforcement powers of the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), covers the treatment and rehabilitation of drug abusers, and criminalises drug offences such as trafficking, manufacturing, importing/exporting and possession of drugs.
3. The MDA was last amended in 2012 to enhance the punishment against those who traffic drugs to the young and the vulnerable. The amendments also saw the criminalisation of drug-related gatherings and introduction of hair analysis to detect drug abuse, among others.
4. The key provisions of the Bill will:
Acts of contamination to be criminalised
5. The Bill will criminalise acts of contamination which facilitate or promote drug use. Contamination acts include actively introducing a drug trafficker to another person, knowing the trafficker is likely to supply him with drugs.
6. A person shall also be guilty of a contamination offence if he teaches, instructs or provides information to another person on how to cultivate, manufacture, consume, traffic, import or export controlled drugs, knowing or having reason to believe that the other person intends to carry out these activities. For first-time convictions, the Bill proposes a maximum imprisonment of ten years. For repeat convictions, a mandatory minimum imprisonment of two years, up to a maximum of ten years, is proposed.
7. The dissemination or publication of any information relating to the cultivation, manufacture, consumption, trafficking, import or export of controlled drugs will also be criminalised. For first-time convictions, the Bill proposes a maximum imprisonment of five years or a fine of up to $10,000, or both. For repeat convictions, a mandatory minimum imprisonment of one year, up to a maximum of five years, is proposed.
8. For the new offences covered in paragraphs 6 and 7, valid defences would include legitimate purposes relating to the administration of justice, science, medicine, education and art not intended to promote drug offending. Disseminating information in the course of conducting a licensed activity authorised under the MDA (e.g. a pharmaceutical company licensed to manufacture controlled drugs) will not be an offence.
Criminalise acts which expose children to drugs and permit young persons to consume drugs
9. In the course of CNB’s operations, they have encountered situations of abusers leaving drugs and drug paraphernalia (e.g. utensils used for drug consumption) within easy access of children. These adults are subjecting the children to the risks of unknowingly consuming the drugs. To deter such irresponsible behaviour, the Bill will make it an offence for an adult if he/she, knowing that a child (defined to be below 16 years of age) is likely to be present in a place, recklessly leaves drugs or drug utensils within easy access of the child.
10. CNB has also detected instances in which adults had knowingly let young persons consume drugs. The Bill introduces a new provision which makes it an offence for an adult who permits or does not take reasonable steps to prevent a young person (defined to be below 21 years of age) from consuming controlled drugs in the adult’s possession.
11. For first-time convictions, the Bill proposes a maximum imprisonment of ten years. A mandatory minimum imprisonment of two years, up to a maximum of ten years, is proposed for repeat convictions.
Ex-drug abusers to be required to provide hair samples, in addition to urine samples
12. Hair analysis was introduced in 2012 as an alternative drug abuse detection tool. Unlike urine tests, which can only detect drugs consumed within the immediate week of the test, hair analysis is able to do so for drugs consumed earlier. The Bill proposes to grant powers to the Director of CNB to subject an abuser to mandatory rehabilitation or supervision based on the positive result of a hair analysis.
13. The Bill also proposes to provide the Director of CNB the power to order persons who have previously been convicted of drug consumption or of failure to provide urine or hair specimens, or those who have been admitted to a gazetted drug rehabilitation institution (e.g. Drug Rehabilitation Centre, DRC) or emplaced on a supervision order issued under the MDA, to present themselves for urine or hair tests at CNB, as and when required, no matter how long ago these persons might have been caught for drug abuse. The availability of such powers to CNB will encourage ex-abusers to stay drug-free, and allow for more timely interventions should the ex-abusers relapse.
14. Currently, there is no mandatory minimum punishment for failure to provide urine or hair specimens. The Bill now proposes a mandatory minimum imprisonment of one year for first-time convictions of drug consumption or failure to provide urine or hair specimens.
Mandatory for parents or guardians of youth abusers to attend counselling
15. The Youth Enhanced Supervision (YES) scheme was introduced in 2013 to target low-risk youth abusers. YES is a non-residential programme which entails casework and counselling, and urine supervision. Youth drug abusers emplaced under the YES Scheme undergo compulsory counselling which requires the involvement of their parents. However, some parents persistently absent themselves from these sessions. Given the critical role that a family plays in supporting a youth abuser’s rehabilitation, the Bill proposes to grant powers to the Director of CNB to require the parents or guardians of drug supervisees under 21 years of age to attend counselling. Parents or guardians who do not comply without any reasonable excuse can be charged with an offence punishable with a fine or be ordered by the Court to attend the counselling sessions.
Rehabilitation regime for drug abusers to be strengthened
16. Currently, drug abusers who are arrested for the first and second time undergo rehabilitation in the DRC. Those who are arrested for the third time and more are subject to Long-Term Imprisonment (LT). The LT regime was introduced in 1998 to protect the public from hard-core abusers who may turn to crime to feed their drug habit, and to punish and deter drug abusers from continued drug use. We will move towards a more calibrated approach, and distinguish between abusers who only consume drugs and those who concurrently commit other offences of harm to society.
17. Adult drug abusers who do not face other concurrent criminal charges will be channelled to the relevant rehabilitation pathway:
18. The enhanced rehabilitation regime, targeted at abusers who do not face other concurrent charges, will help them break the cycle of addiction more effectively and reintegrate into society sooner. This better serves our goal of reducing drug abuse in Singapore.
19. However, drug abusers who commit other criminal offences and harm society will continue to be dealt with very strictly. They will be charged in Court and be liable for imprisonment and caning, including LT.