Reconvened 63rd Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs – Singapore's National Statement by Ambassador Umej Bhatia, Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations on 2 December 2020

Published: 03 December 2020

1. Thank you very much, Mr Chair, for giving Singapore the floor. At the outset, let me associate my delegation with the joint statement read out by Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov, on behalf of the like-minded group of countries.


2. And let me also say how much we appreciate your untiring efforts and your stellar leadership to steer the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) on this important issue, as well as the great support from the Secretariat.


3. Singapore respects the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) treaty mandated role to conduct reviews of substances and provide its recommendations on the global controls to be imposed on them, as well as the principal role of the CND as the policy-making body in the UN with prime responsibility for drug control matters.


4. We are disappointed that recommendation 5.1 has been accepted. The voting outcomes today demonstrate clearly that there is no international consensus on the WHO-ECDD’s recommendations on cannabis and cannabis-related substances, despite the many discussions before the vote to reach a common understanding.


5. Clearly, there is a lack of adequate and robust evidence to substantiate these recommendations, particularly on the safety and efficacy of cannabis and its related substances for medical purposes. In contrast, there is well-founded and incontrovertible research[1] that establishes several short-term and long-term adverse effects associated with cannabis use, including impairments to one’s respiratory and cognitive functions. Thus, the adoption of recommendation 5.1 today, taken in spite of sharp disagreements between Member States and the dearth of robust and persuasive scientific evidence, fundamentally goes against our principles of consensus and evidence-based drug policy-making, and threatens to undermine our duty to protect public health and welfare.


6. The deletion of cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention carries a high signature and will perpetuate the societal misperception that global authorities like the WHO and CND no longer assess cannabis to be as harmful as it once was thought to be. This would encourage more abuse, especially among the youths, and create other social and safety problems. As such, we stress that the acceptance of recommendation 5.1 should not be viewed as an endorsement of recreational cannabis use and must not pave the way for further liberalisation of cannabis.


7. In conclusion, we reiterate our disappointment in the scheduling decision taken today. Cannabis is the most widely abused drug in the world and the acceptance of recommendation 5.1 may well compound this dire situation. Singapore remains firmly committed to our duty to our citizens to protect public health and welfare. We will continue to keep cannabis and cannabis-related substances under robust control in Singapore, to ensure that Singaporeans are kept safe from their scourge. Thank you very much, Mr Chair.

[1] Wayne Hall and Louisa Degenhardt, “Adverse health effects of non-medical cannabis use”, The Lancet, vol. 374, no. 9698 (2009), pp 1383-1391; Jeanette M. Tetrault and others, “Effects of marijuana smoking on pulmonary function and respiratory complications: a systematic review”, Archives of Internal Medicine, vol. 167, no. 3 (2007), pp. 221-228; Theresa H. M. Moore and others, “Cannabis use and risk of psychotic or affective mental health outcomes: a systematic review”, The Lancet, vol. 370, no. 9584 (2007), pp. 319-328; Mary P. Becker and others, “Longitudinal changes in cognition in young adult cannabis users”, Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, vol. 40, no. 6 (2018), pp. 529-543; C. Heather Ashton, “Pharmacology and effects of cannabis: a brief review”, The British Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 178, no. 2 (2001), pp. 101-106; Marta Di Forti and others, “The contribution of cannabis use to variation in the incidence of psychotic disorder across Europe (EU-GEI): a multicentre case-control study.”, The Lancet Psychiatry, vol. 6, no. 5 (2019), pp. 427-436.