Published: 03 December 2020
1. At the reconvened 63rd session of the United Nations (UN) Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) held on 2 December 2020, Member States of the CND voted to accept Recommendation 5.1 and reject Recommendations 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, 5.5 and 5.6 put forward by the World Health Organisation Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (WHO-ECDD) on cannabis and cannabis-related substances.
2. Recommendation 5.1 was accepted by a very tight margin. It required a simple majority to pass; 27 Member States voted for the recommendation, 25 voted against, and one Member State abstained. The acceptance of recommendation 5.1 would mean that cannabis and cannabis resin would no longer be listed with the most dangerous drugs in Schedule IV under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, as amended by the 1972 Protocol (“the 1961 Convention”). The international control measures for cannabis and cannabis resin remain unchanged as they continue to be listed in Schedule I of the 1961 Convention.
3. Singapore is disappointed with this outcome. There is no strong evidence to support the recommendations, including Recommendation 5.1. 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. 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. Singapore’s Permanent Representative (PR) to the UN Ambassador Umej Bhatia delivered Singapore’s national statement at the 63rd CND, reiterating our firm position on this.
4. Singapore joined other like-minded countries to issue a statement 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.
Singapore Stands Firm in its Zero-tolerance Approach Towards Drugs
5. Illicit drugs, including cannabis, are harmful, addictive and destroy lives, families and communities. Singapore believes that every person should have the right to live in an environment free of drugs. Singapore will continue to adopt its harm prevention approach and tough drug control measures, which we believe will best protect Singaporeans.
6. 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. Our approach is based on the three pillars of preventive drug education, tough laws and robust enforcement, and rehabilitation and aftercare, and has kept our local drug situation under control despite significant deterioration in the global and regional environments.
7. Singapore will continue to enforce our strict laws against the trafficking, possession, consumption and import or export of illicit drugs, including cannabis, to protect the health and welfare of our people. At the same time, we will continue to allow safe and controlled access to evidence-based medical treatment options, including cannabinoid pharmaceuticals, in accordance with our strict framework for the supply, prescription and dispensation of controlled drugs used for medical purposes in Singapore.