SINGAPORE CANNABIS AWARENESS: THE NEXT STEP FOR SINGAPORE
SINGAPORE’S NEXT PHASE IN (DECRIMINALIZATION) OF CANNABIS
In the last several months, I have noticed a slight shift in the ethereal social fabric of Singapore. Though this shift, by most ‘poli-ticking’ standards may be a very small shift, is a result of, I think, a shift in the global consciousness. Now without getting too hippy-dippy about it, more and more people and ‘waking up’ to the ill-efficiencies of the status quo and have taken upon the responsibility to educate themselves and others of some of the disinformation and outright propaganda that has long been institutionalized into the public psyche. Number one on the disinformation list is cannabis. Now im not going to give a sermon extolling all the benefits and rich history of the plant(though I could), there are plenty of people spreading the good word around already. But what Singapore’s marijuana movement sorely lacks, is legitimacy. So instead im going to briefly(and very crudely) lay out what needs to happen in order for us to progress from this point. A lot has been documented about the American ‘War On Drugs’ and the general consensus is, it’s a failure. But what is the toll on Singapore’s ‘war’?
Has the abundantly clear threat of a death penalty stopped the ever rising tide of narcotics in the country? Has all the PR and PDE [Preventive Drug Education] curbed the number of drug offenders? Have we truly exhausted every avenue to rehabilitate our citizens who have fallen prey to their own weaknesses? From an actual (under)ground-level perspective, I would say, no. Based on CNB’s own statistics, there was actually an increase in drug abusers arrested in 2012 than the previous year(DRUG SITUATION REPORT 2012). In the same report, CNB Director, Ng Ser Song states, “(The report) are set against the backdrop of a worsening regional drug situation… with no signs that regional drug production will ease off”.
So where do we go from here? It is understood that we cannot stem the flow of drugs into the city. And though not all the drugs that enter Singapore stay here(a good portion actually only transits in Singapore), the fact that there is a supply unequivocally points to a demand. And let’s be clear here, all drugs are expensive. In marketing terms, it would be considered a premium product. But that’s not the point. The point is that there is money to be made here. Lots of it. But Singapore is not ready for this. Not just yet. What Singapore’s marijuana movement needs is its own PR pushback. To take a page from America’s medical marijuana playbook, we first need the support from the local medical community.
There must be some forward-thinking doctors within the Register of Medical Practitioners who are willing to go on record and (in the very least) admit that more research can be done into all its medical applications. Whether it be in the treatment against cancer or improving the quality of life and providing pain relief for terminally-ill patients; we cannot allow the uninformed prejudices to deny the breakthroughs in medical marijuana research today. No doubt, as it has been regurgitated many times before, “Singapore is special…due to our strategic location…delicate diversity…yada yada yada”. So why not conduct our own tests and clinical trials based in Singapore? Medical authorities like National Medical Research Council and Health Science. Authority can work together with National Cancer Centre Singapore and Singapore Clinical Research Institute to come up with the guidelines, processes and objectives.
After which, participating hospitals and qualified medical research facilities can independently carry out the trails. But how will this benefit Singapore? Well, for one, any advancement in medical science is a good thing. Why not Singapore be a part of that advancement? But research costs money. Who’s going to pay for all that? Well Timmy, realistically, Singaporeans do. Sure, such research into ‘new’ frontiers might attract foreign interests given Singapore’s medical ‘track record’ and infrastructure but ultimately, only the government can make this happen. With our tax dollars, the government can allocate funding into the research and implementation required.
While all of that is happening on the medical front, the marijuana movement must simultaneously engage the legal side of the issue. If TV has though me anything, is that there has to be some renegade lawyer zealously fighting the good fight for truth and justice. A lawyer needs to be able to maneuver through the Courts system and technical legal mumbo-jumbo and help:
• draft new policies
• challenge the current laws
• open channel to parliament
Having legal council will help to add to the movements’ legitimacy and progress the legal and political agenda in an above-board and effective manner. But lawyers cost money too. Who’s going to… Assuming not all lawyers are greedy, money-grubbing, prestige brats, Most law firms and The Law Society itself has a Pro Bono Services Office. Since they’re not getting paid, what benefits the lawyers to do it? Aside from supporting a righteous cause? Law practitioners can be part of something bigger and help overturn an injustice and be part of legal history. What is more symbolic and pro bono publico(for the public good) than fighting for the underdog.
WE, THE COMMUNITY
Though the legal and medical backing will deal with the bureaucracy side of things, the key to this movement’s success, would be the real fight for the hearts and minds of the Singapore people; and also what I think is the hardest bit. But thanks to the internet, we can now get the message out easier than ever. However, simply “getting the message out” is not enough. How -- we get that message out is crucial. Being able to communicate effectively with the public can aid in propelling the cause further and garner more attention and support for the issue. We need a media blitz of sorts, strategically executed to saturate the public consciousness. Be it posting facebook links, co-ordinating with public events, handing out informational pamphlets outside Raffles City mrt or getting a spot on Channel News Asia’s Get Real or Talking Point, the purpose is not to hammer the information into everybody’s faces but to get everybody talking. Once an open and active forum between the advocates, the government and the people has been established, then comes the actual education portion. A licit non-profit organization dedicated to the education and proliferation of medical marijuana has to be set up to address the public and state officials. This non-profit would also act as the Media-Public Relations arm of the movement, dealing with disseminating of information, conducting educational talks, community outreach, collecting petition signatures etc.
We will know whether the media blitz works when ministers start addressing it in Parliament. From there, it is a matter of persistence and positioning the agenda to fit Singapore’s social construct. Now, assuming we’ve done all our due diligence and manage to make significant headway on all fronts. Say we defy all odds and Singapore’s first medical marijuana trails goes into its initial phases, what then? What do WE, as Singaporeans stand to gain from all this hullabaloo? For one, think of all the revenue to be made in an industry with no other competition. As it has shown, when you decriminalize, regulate, tax and allow the sale of marijuana, you drive the illicit supply down. Nobody is going to risk prosecution and imprisonment for a $50 bag of weed when they can legally obtain the product legally. That’s one less thing the CNB has to worry about and can focus their efforts on real scourges like heroin and methamphetamines.
The annual revenue in California in 2012 alone was up to 100 million dollars by the end of its fiscal year. But Singapore is special, remember? And California is not a geophrapically, economically or socially proportionate to our country. Fine. Since there are no marijuana legalized states with relatively similar size, economy or demographics(we’re soooooo special), the government, through the Economic Development Board and Singapore Economic Review, can commission it’s own studies and strategies of how best to implement the proposed changes and conduct a fair and realistic cost-benefit analysis. The legitimate industry that is spawned from the legalization of marijuana will inevitably provide more jobs in well-established sectors like agriculture, hydroponics, sorting and shipping, retail and many more viable and sustainable industries. But what if I am a pretentious dick and don’t care for unimportant things like money or jobs? Then I say unto you, get angry. Angry that for all technological capabilities and professional expertise available right on our shores, Singapore has yet to pioneer this idea ahead of it’s ASEAN neighbours. For all its flash and flimflam, Singapore should lead the charge in medical marijuana research in the region and possibly, inspire its neighbours to take a second look at this miraculous plant. Wouldn’t that be a fantastic tale our grandkids can tell their grandkids, how Singapore parlayed the way in Asia for marijuana legalization.
Editor's Note: A recent study in the Netherlands shows that the country's productivity was reduced greatly since the legalization of cannabis in some parts of the country. Cannabis reduces productivity, our government obviously doesn't like the idea of anything that will affect their GDP growth.
Many Singaporeans are ignorant on the topic of drugs mainly due to the wide label of 'all drugs are bad', 'drug traffickers will be hanged', etc. Labeling all drugs as bad is a massive generalization that does not allow for the consideration of the pros and cons of each drug separately. There are negative effects of cannabis such as the risk of psychosis with long-term use for pre-disposed individuals, but there are also many negative effects of other legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco.
Instead of simply following the war on drugs mentality, people should be open to learn more about the effects and risks associated with various drugs and then make an informed decision based on that knowledge.