If you have watched one too many episodes of Narcos and want to consider a new career in narcotic botany, you might want to re-think your options.
The proposed changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act is covering wider ground. Any ideas to get into the drug industry will be cut off from the roots; be it trying to acquire manpower, cultivate the plant in Singapore, or smart new ways to traffic the end-product, there will be a legislative power to address it.
The developments in the law can be broadly understood like this:
- Protection against technological advancements that could defeat existing enforcement efforts;
- Better and more efficient treatment of the cause.
Autonomous vehicles, unmanned aircraft and vessels are now being explicitly covered. It also provides enforcement officers with powers to intercept and search any autonomous or unmanned vehicle suspected to be used for the transport of controlled drugs.
This is reasonable. Remote, unmanned and autonomous vehicles have taken to the skies, seas and lands and sell for prices that are available to almost anyone. There have already been instances of drones being complicit in illegal acts (peeping for example: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/caas-investigating-incident-of-drone-flying-in-punggol-hdb-estate). It doesn’t take too much imagination to see how this technology can be employed in the narcotics supply chain.
Crosshairs of the law will also take aim at the grooming, recruitment and subcontracting of the drug trade.
Being introduced are new Sections 11B to 11E that address the following:
Exposing a child to drugs and permitting young person(s) to consume drugs.
Knowing or recklessly leaving controlled drug or drug paraphernalia around where children can come across it, is an offence.
There have been several arrests made during raids this year where it was revealed that addict parents have been using drugs and leaving substances and their apparatuses around very young children. [https://www.cnb.gov.sg/NewsAndEvents/News/Index/cnb-11-day-island-wide-operation-net-114-drug-offenders]
In one case, CNB officers raided a unit in the vicinity of Yishun Avenue 4 and arrested two suspected drug traffickers, a 25-year-old and a 28-year-old, both Singaporean females. From within the unit, officers recovered about 9g of ‘Ice’ and various drug-smoking apparatus. The two children of the 28-year-old suspect, aged 3 and 6, were playing outside the unit when both suspects were arrested. The 28-year-old suspect was also heavily pregnant with another child and investigations found that she had continued to abuse ‘Ice’ despite her pregnancy.
Instructing a person(s) to cultivate cannabis, etc., or to manufacture or consume controlled drugs, etc
The online environment is fertile for the distributing of ideas, instructions and even recruiting new workers for the industry. The changes in the form of Section 11D will criminalise activities that seek to bring instructions for bringing the trade locally.
There is a threat that the manufacture of new kinds of homemade drugs might spread here because of the availability of information online.
Indeed Singapore has seen its first drug lab in years. On the 6th of December 2017, joint government agencies were called in to assist the CNB in a lab they raided on Yishun Industrial Street 12.6kg of synthetic cannabis and 500g of an “unknown powdery substance” was seized.
Causing or procuring young person or vulnerable person to commit any offence under Section 5(1) or 7
There have been many instances where young people were being used by their bosses as drug mules. The means by which this happens is often indirect and very complicated.
This new section will allow enforcement personnel to prosecute the circle of people that have caused a young person to commit the said offences. Young people are certainly vulnerable because they are easily manipulated.
Section 5 deals with the trafficking of controlled drugs and 7 deals with the import and export of controlled drugs.
And finally, the landmark feature of the proposed changes is the feature of mandatory jail terms.
Repeat drug abusers who do not commit crimes might no longer face mandatory jail terms. The courts may order abusers whom are caught for the third time or more, and do not face other concurrent criminal charges, to be sent to the Drug Rehabilitation Centre instead of jail under the long-term imprisonment regime.
Time spent with the DRC would be, on average, one year for first time abusers, and three years for those caught for the fourth time or more.
“This move demonstrates that the system of imprisoning drug offenders for long periods of time under the LT1/LT2 sentencing regimes may not be the best method to help an addict recover and it may also have adverse consequential results which degrade the offender’s familial ties. These secondary knock-on effects will negatively affect the offender’s desire and motivation to rehabilitate, leading to higher recidivism rates. This change, coupled with effective treatment-centric programs by the DRC, may be a better means to nip the problem at its root”, says Mato Kotwani, a lawyer with IRB Law.