Drug Consumption: What is it and what are the sentences?

Singapore takes a very dim view of drugs and any offences relating to the abuse of it. As a result, the Misuse of Drugs Act, the main governing legislation enacted sets out harsh penalties for the various offences related to drugs.

Singapore takes a very dim view of drugs and any offences relating to the abuse of it. As a result, the Misuse of Drugs Act, the main governing legislation enacted sets out harsh penalties for the various offences related to drugs.


Consumption – what is it?

Under the law, it is an offence for you to smoke, administer to yourself (injecting the drugs through a syringe, etc.) or consume a controlled and/or a specified drug. These drugs are listed in the Act under 3 different classes. The drugs listed include common ones that are always referred to and also uncommon ones.


How will the Police know that I have consumed drugs?

Under the law, as long as any Police, Central Narcotics Bureau or Immigrations officer has reasons to believe or suspects that you may have consumed drugs, they can subject you to a urine test or a hair test under the Act. What this means is that they are allowed to take a sample of either your urine or your hair to be tested by the Health Sciences Authority for any traces of drugs.

If the test reveals that there were traces of drugs in the sample, you are presumed to have taken the drugs illegally and voluntarily (i.e. you are guilty of abusing drugs) until you can prove otherwise.


What if I do not want to give them a sample?

The Act clearly states it is an offence if you fail or refuse to give a sample upon request and it is an offence that is punishable with a minimum imprisonment term of at least 1 year.


What if I consumed the drugs whilst I was on holiday?

While there are some parts of that world that have taken a more relaxed stance in relation to certain drugs like Marijuana, for example, you need to be reminded that as a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident, the same governing law specifies that if you are found to have consumed drugs outside of Singapore, you can be dealt with as though you had consumed those drugs in Singapore.


Do I have any defences?

Due to the presumption sections in the governing law in Singapore, there is a very difficult burden for you to discharge once traces of drugs are found in your urine. You are deemed to have taken the drugs voluntarily. Feigning ignorance (i.e. I did not know that what I took was drugs) is unlikely get you out of trouble unless you can show that you had indeed no reason to believe or suspect that whatever you have taken to be drugs. The presumption acts against you in that you have to prove beyond doubt that you did not know or suspect that whatever you have taken and/or consumed to have contained drugs.

One defence that has received almost a cult status amongst offenders and non-offenders alike is the “medication” defence. Basically, this defence is predicated on the belief that taking certain prescribed medication (such as a cough syrup) would yield positive results during the urine test. However, it is important to note that the Courts in Singapore have examined this defence in great detail and set out the reasons why such a defence is implausible. Experts in the different fields gave evidence that it is not possible for traces of the controlled or specified drugs to be found in your urine test just by taking cough syrup, for example. Whilst some prescribed drugs do contain substances which are controlled, the amount of these controlled substances are normally very little, and you would need to consume an impossible amount (an amount any doctor is unlikely to prescribed) of cough syrup before the traces of these controlled substances will show in your urine test.

You must also be reminded that whilst the world has taken a more lax stance on Marijuana, Cannabis and its derivatives – such as Cannabidiol oils (CBD), cannabis edibles and the term “medical marijuana”, Singapore does not share this more relaxed view. Singapore does not allow the use of / consumption of any products that is a derivative of Cannabis. Therefore, whilst some pro athletes in the USA, for example, may use CBD oils to enhance their recovery process from training and competition, it is illegal for you to do so. Further, if you try to buy any of these products containing CBD or any Cannabis induced food online and ship to Singapore, you will get into trouble with the law.


What kind of Sentences will I be serving if found guilty?

Since April 2019, the Government has taken a different approach to drugs abusers. Under the new regime which is more focused on rehabilitating these drug abusers, offenders who are classified as “pure drug abusers” will undergo rehabilitative treatment at the Drugs Rehabilitative Centre instead of serving an imprisonment term. First-time abusers who admit to their drug consumption and do not face charges for other unrelated offences will be made to serve an average term of 1 year in the DRC.

Likewise, those facing drug consumption charges for the  3rd or even 4th time who would have been punished with Long-Term 1 and Long-Term 2 sentences of a minimum of 5 years imprisonment and three strokes of the cane or seven years minimum imprisonment and six strokes of the cane respectively may now be rehabilitated for up to 2 years or 3 to 4 years respectively at the DRC. This will then be followed up with one of the three community-based programmes (halfway houses, day release from community supervision centre and home supervision with electronic tagging) for up to 5 years.

The Minister for Law in Singapore has also stated that drug abusers who voluntarily come forward for rehabilitation will be considered for a shorter detention period in the DRC and that such abusers will be given the benefit of two such surrenders in their lifetime.


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