Strict rules on use of medical cannabis: Singapore

The use of pharmaceutical cannabinoid products in Singapore comes under strict frameworks and regulations and does not diminish the country's zero-tolerance position against drugs, the Home Affairs and Health ministries have said. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant.

"Our drug-control policies are underpinned by evidence and research," they said in a joint statement in February, adding that Singapore must continue to stay drug-free to prevent harm to its population and society.

"Cannabis is clearly addictive and harmful, and there is no scientific evidence of the safety and efficacy of raw cannabis use," the statement said. "This supports our position that cannabis should remain an illicit drug... We will continue to allow safe and controlled access to evidence-based medical treatment options."

At a Central Narcotics Bureau's workplan seminar on May 24, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said Singapore's position is based on "practical realities, common sense and evidence". He said: "We have to operate on evidence. We have to operate on what the research shows elsewhere and not be confused by broad simplistic claims."

The authorities said it was important to differentiate between products containing unprocessed or raw cannabis, and pharmaceutical products containing cannabinoids.

These cannabinoid pharmaceuticals undergo rigorous scientific review by the Health Sciences Authority before they can be registered for supply here.

Manufacturers also need to substantiate the safety, quality and efficacy of the cannabinoid pharmaceuticals using scientific evidence from clinical studies and data on the manufacturing process.

The authorities said that, so far, there are no studies validating the claims of unprocessed or raw cannabis being able to treat medical conditions.

A 2015 literature review done by experts from Singapore's Institute of Mental Health affirmed the harmful and addictive nature of unprocessed, or raw, cannabis. It concluded that "cannabis consumption is associated with irreversible brain damage, brain shrinkage, and serious mental or psychiatric illnesses".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2019, with the headline Strict rules on use of medical cannabis: Singapore. Subscribe