Opinion: Singapore Shouldn’t Punish Citizens For Cannabis Consumption Overseas

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Joseph Schooling Cannabis Consumption Case Raises Questions About Drug Laws In Singapore

The recent confession by Singapore swimmer Joseph Schooling about his consumption of cannabis overseas has created quite a stir online.

Joseph Schooling Admits To Consuming Cannabis Overseas, Apologises For ‘Moment Of Weakness’

As a national athlete and public figure with a reputation to uphold, the admission has certainly tarnished his image.

But as a Singapore citizen who was not in the country while committing said acts, the attention Schooling has drawn from local authorities is raising many eyebrows.

While he was still wrong for consuming cannabis in Vietnam where it’s illegal, people are wondering why he’s facing consequences under Singapore law.

Law against overseas consumption not new

For those who may be unaware, the law against the consumption of drugs outside Singapore by a citizen or permanent resident (PR) has been enshrined in our legislation for years.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1973, citizens or PRs guilty of this offence may face similar consequences to those who had committed them in Singapore.

According to the law, offenders face between one to 10 years’ jail and a fine of up to S$20,000 for the consumption of drugs in Singapore.

Since he was a National Serviceman at the time of his offence, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is managing Schooling’s case. For now, he must follow a supervised urine testing regime. However, the jury’s still out on what other punishments he may face.

Source: Joseph Isaac Schooling on Facebook

Fellow swimmer Amanda Lim, who was under investigation for similar offences, only received a stern warning from the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB).

Law thrust into spotlight after Thailand legalised cannabis consumption

For a long time, Singaporeans did not think much of the law possibly because few countries legalised recreational drug use.

Things changed recently when Thailand decriminalised the use of cannabis, making the first of such moves in the region.

Naturally, Singaporeans who already enjoy visiting the ‘Land of Smiles’ for leisure grew curious. Many likely began wondering if they could consume the drug there.

Unfortunately for them, the CNB was quick to release a statement, dashing all hopes of those seeking to take advantage of the new regulations.

Law-abiding citizens may brush it aside as just another rule to follow. But others are questioning why Singapore’s law should apply in other countries.

No clear reason for ban on consumption overseas

In the wake of Schooling’s news, users on various social media platforms have aired their thoughts on the matter.

On Reddit, folks expressed confusion over how citizens can face punishment under Singapore law for things they’ve done overseas.

Source: Reddit


Indeed, there have been no clear explanations justifying the law. Instead, CNB merely disputes the view that cannabis is a ‘soft’ drug. They cite research affirming “the addictive and harmful nature of cannabis”, which also “damages the brain”.

But considering that people only travel overseas several times a year, there shouldn’t be grounds for long-term concerns like addiction.

Most countries that legalise cannabis like the Netherlands also have guidelines for sellers and consumers, limiting the amount that can be sold, bought and consumed.

With such rules in place, people should be able to consume the drug responsibly, without risking their health.

Should they break the law governing any country, the authorities there should be the ones taking action.

Don’t punish citizens unnecessarily

The only time when Singapore authorities should step in, perhaps, is when someone tries to bring such narcotics into the country. In those cases, the punishments and rationale for them are indisputable.

But when someone decides to indulge in an activity that’s perfectly legal wherever they are, there’s no reason to argue their case if the authorities there aren’t breathing down their necks about it.

Though we have yet to see cases where Singapore has punished citizens for breaking a local law overseas, this incident has sparked an important discussion about the ruling.

Hopefully, the authorities can clarify this law so the public can understand it.

Note: The views expressed within this article are the author’s own.

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Featured image adapted from Elsa Olofsson via CBD Oracle.

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