While some Singaporeans believe in the benefits of medical marijuana, drug policies are unlikely to change

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Photo: YouTube screengrab

Singapore is unlikely to legalize marijuana anytime soon, even though a study has shown that a surprising number of its citizens are actually in favor of legalizing the substance for medicinal purposes.

YouGov, a market research company based in the United Kingdom, conducted a survey of 1,009 Singaporeans. Six out of 10 respondents believe in the medicinal value of marijuana, and one in 10 does not. Three out of ten respondents are uncertain as to marijuana’s medicinal value.

But when it comes to the legalization of the substance for medicinal purposes, the respondents proved to be more divided. Nearly 40 percent of the respondents said yes to legalizing it, while 28 percent said no.

However, only 14 percent of the respondents say that marijuana should be legalized for recreational purposes, while 67 percent do not.

Interestingly, the survey showed that those opposed to legal recreational weed come from a higher income bracket. A whopping 76 percent of those earning S$ 8,000 monthly and more oppose legalization for recreational purposes.

According to the YouGov study, “Overall, over one in ten (11%) Singaporeans support legalization of marijuana for both medical and recreational use. This is compared to four in ten (43%) Brits and five in ten (52%) Americans.”

The survey showed that out of a list of addictive substances, Singaporeans believe that heroin does the most harm. Interestingly, respondents said that alcohol is less dangerous than tobacco, and cocaine and marijuana have the same level of harmfulness but are still less harmful than LSD.

The head of YouGov Omnibus in APAC, Jake Gammon, says, “The debate on medical marijuana is a hotly contested one, and it appears Singaporeans remain divided on the issue. There are plenty of factors swaying one’s opinion on whether or not legalization should take place; be it gender, income group or, most notably, whether a person suffers from an illness medical marijuana can potentially treat.”

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While Singaporeans have shown a more relaxed attitude at least toward medical marijuana, it’s highly unlikely that the substance will be legalized in the country any time soon, given the hardline stand of the current government.

K Shanmugam, Singapore’s Law and Home Affairs Minister, said in September, “We don’t buy into this nonsense that drugs are good for you. If science says so, then okay. But we have not seen such scientific evidence as yet.”

In a 2016 speech to the UN General Assembly, he told attendees in no uncertain terms that Singapore would never bend in its policies concerning drugs.

Most recently, as Canada legalized the use of marijuana for recreational purposes, the Central Narcotics Bureau of Singapore reminded its citizens and permanent residents that if it were discovered that they used these drugs in other countries, they could still be penalized in Singapore.

The CNB also issued a warning on the dangers of marijuana. “A literature review conducted by the Institute of Mental Health experts affirmed the addictive and harmful nature of cannabis, and that it damages the brain. There is scant evidence of the safety and efficacy of long-term cannabis use. These findings corroborate our position that cannabis should remain an illicit drug.”

Read related: Will Malaysia be the first Asian country to legalise medical marijuana?