LOBBYISTS around the world may be pushing for the legalisation of cannabis, but it is "wrong and dangerous" to view it as a soft drug, Second Minister for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli warned yesterday.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 20th Anti-Drug Abuse Campaign carnival at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre, Mr Masagos, who is also Minister (Prime Minister's Office) and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs, tried to "dispel myths" surrounding marijuana, the other name for cannabis.
These myths are increasingly being perpetuated online by social media and foreign news reports about legalisation of the drug in other parts of the world, most recently in several American states, for its purported medicinal value.
But these medical benefits for pain and epilepsy management "are not conclusive", said Mr Masagos, pointing to how cannabis has not been approved for use by medical authorities worldwide, not even by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Cannabis is addictive and "especially harmful to young people", he added, which is worrying as the number of young drug abusers in Singapore has been on the rise.
There were 1,110 abusers aged under 30 arrested last year, up 34 per cent from 826 in 2010.
"My message to youths is this: Keep saying no to drugs, whatever form they come in. They
will ruin your lives and your future," he said.
In order to find ways to better address the growing problem of drug abuse, a Task Force on Youth and Drugs was convened last year.
Chaired by Mr Masagos, it surveyed 700 people aged 12 to 29, of whom 237 were abusers, and came up with several recommendations and measures.
Among them is a new counselling, support and guidance programme for youth abusers that incorporates parental input in the rehabilitation process.
The Ministry of Home Affairs will also form an Anti-drug Abuse Advocacy Network bringing together families, youth leaders and the medical community in an effort to raise awareness of latest drug trends.
An educational anti-drug mobile game produced by Nanyang Polytechnic's School of Interactive and Digital Media was launched yesterday.
Called Nelzon, the game is available in Android and Apple app stores. Players aim to avoid drugs, gangsters who tout them and the temptation to try them by toggling a game character to "jump" or "slide" over these "obstacles".
Final-year polytechnic student Ernest Ong, 19, who was part of the team behind the game, said: "Gaming is popular among young people and so I find it meaningful to teach them about drugs and their harmful effects through this platform."