First arrests made in Singapore for possession of New Psychoactive Substances

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Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) of Singapore announced yesterday the first arrests made following the listing of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) as Class A controlled drugs on Thursday, under the First Schedule of the Misuse of Drugs Act. The suspects, two unnamed male Singaporeans, aged 22 and 23, were reportedly arrested at a shopping center in Tampines on Friday evening for possession of synthetic cannabis, also known as "K2". Authorities recovered 71.7 g of the drug from the suspects.

Under suspicion from the CNB that the 22-year-old suspect was engaged in trafficking of the illegal substance, a further search of his home yielded an additional 22.3 g of synthetic cannabis, raising the total amount of the drug confiscated following the arrests to 94 g.

Synthetic cannabis, listed as an NPS, and known as a "legal high", is one of a group of designer drugs created to stimulate the effects of controlled drugs including cocaine, Ecstasy, methamphetamine, and heroin. The CNB has linked NPS abuse to symptoms including severe intoxication, hallucinations, paranoia, seizures, cadiovascular problems, renal failure, and death.

Typically having chemical structure very similar but slightly different from controlled drugs, these substances have been illegalized, and their possession, consumption, trafficking, and manufacturing now carry penalties comparable to that of controlled drugs. Last year, under the Fifth Schedule of the Misuse of Drugs Act, designed to study NPSs before their illegalization, they could be confiscated by authorities, but no further penalty would be levied.

The changes to NPS status follow increases over the past year in NPS trafficking and consumption, according to the CNB. Commenting on the move, a spokesperson for the CNB revealed the organization has reported at least thirty NPS seizures in the period from last May through this February. "Thus far," the spokesperson noted, "synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones are the two more commonly detected NPS".

Termed an "alarming new drug problem" by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, its World Drug Report 2013 indicated an increase to 348 NPSs in 2013, up from 251 in 2012. Capitalizing on their legality — which no longer holds in Singapore — NPSs have been known as "legal highs", "research chemicals", "plant food", and "bath salts".

Commenting on the illegalization of NPSs, Ng Ser Song, the director of the CNB, had this to say. “The drug situation is challenging and the number of repeat drug abusers and young drug abusers remains a concern. With the abuse and trafficking of NPS on the rise, listing these new psychoactive substances as Class A controlled drugs signals our unequivocal stance that these substances are illegal and no different from other controlled drugs.”

Under the recently enacted First Schedule of the Misuse of Drugs Act, if found guilty of drug trafficking, the 22-year-old suspect may be penalized with a minimum of five years in prison and five strokes of the cane. The act also allows the possession or consumption of New Psychoactive Substances to be punished with a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and/or a $20,000 fine.


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