Drug-related offences are taken very seriously in Singapore.
The country is well-known for having one of the strictest drug laws in the world, and the penalties that drug-related violations can incur are clearly outlined in the 1973 Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA).
It doesn’t matter if you’re living in or visiting the country. It’s still a smart idea to acquaint yourself with the laws concerning drugs in the city-state so you can avoid situations that can potentially get you in trouble.
For starters, it’s important to know the different main types of drug-related offences in Singapore: drug trafficking, drug possession, drug consumption, drug manufacturing, drug importation, and drug exportation.
Cases that involve these activities require the services of an expert criminal defence lawyer with years of experience in navigating intricate legal cases. Let’s take a closer look at each type of offence.
Selling, sending, delivering, transporting, distributing, and administering controlled drugs falls under drug trafficking in Singapore. Offering to do any of the above-mentioned activities can also be categorised as trafficking.
There are also situations where the quantity of the drug under a person’s possession can serve as a distinction between drug possession and drug trafficking. Carrying an amount that exceeds a specific threshold can lead to the presumption that a person has the intention of trafficking.
The MDA imposes strict penalties for individuals that are involved in drug trafficking, and the severity of punishment is primarily determined by the type and quantity of drugs involved.
It’s worth noting that drug trafficking is considered the most serious drug-related offence in Singapore. In fact, the death penalty is mandatory for cases that involve certain amounts of specific drugs.
A person can be sentenced to death, for instance, by being convicted of trafficking 500 grams of cannabis, 15 grams of heroin, or 200 grams of cocaine.
The unlawful possession of controlled drugs is also a criminal offence in Singapore. A person can be accused of drug possession if they have a container with the controlled drug.
The same can be said if they have the keys to the said container or the place where the controlled drug is discovered. It’s possible, then, for a person to be accused of drug possession even if they don’t have physical custody of the said drug.
For example, if someone else leaves controlled drugs in another person’s home or car and the police finds it, the owner of the said house or car can be burdened with proving their innocence.
The penalties for this type of violation depend on the type and amount of drugs in one’s possession. People who are convicted of this offence can face up to SGD 20,000 in fines, receive a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, or both. If a person is a repeat offender, they can be imprisoned for a minimum of 2 years.
It’s also an offence in Singapore to consume any controlled drug. Consumption here can mean self-administering, smoking, or ingesting the drug. Drug consumption has the same penalties as drug possession, meaning that a person who is convicted of this violation can face up to 10 years in prison or be required to pay SGD 20,000.
A person found using controlled substances can face legal consequences, including mandatory rehabilitation and potential imprisonment, depending on the circumstances.
There are several considerations that come into play when determining the punishment of a person who has been accused of drug consumption.
It matters if the person has been previously admitted to a drug rehabilitation centre, if they are a repeat offender, and if they have a record of previously receiving the same conviction. People who have been arrested solely due to drug consumption, for instance, may be required to undergo treatment and rehabilitation for 6 months up to 3 years.
On the contrary, someone who has been previously convicted of drug consumption can face a minimum of 3 years in prison. This can increase to 5 years if their case meets certain conditions.
Singapore citizens who consume drugs overseas, including in countries where the said drugs are legal, can still be prosecuted if their urine sample shows up positive in random drug tests. A person who is suspected of drug consumption may be required to submit to hair and urine tests. Failing these tests can mean serving a minimum of 1-year imprisonment, receiving a fine, or even being subjected to caning.
The act of producing any type of illicit substance within Singapore will likely fall under the drug manufacturing offence.
This includes cultivating certain plants or fungal species for the purpose of producing illegal drugs. The penalties for drug manufacturing are severe, with individuals convicted of this offence facing lengthy prison sentences and substantial fines.
As in other types of drug-related offences, the kind and quantity of drugs being manufactured play a crucial role in determining the severity of any punishment that will be given.
Importing controlled drugs into the city-state is also a serious criminal offence in Singapore, something that visitors who are coming from jurisdictions with more lenient drug laws should be aware of.
Whether it involves bringing drugs through an airport facility, carrying them across the border with Malaysia, or receiving controlled substances through various other importation channels, individuals engaged in drug importation can face stringent legal consequences.
Exporting controlled drugs out of Singapore is as strictly prohibited as bringing them into the city-state.
Individuals involved in drug exportation, with the intention of sending controlled substances beyond the country’s borders, are subject to some of the same severe legal repercussions if apprehended. The country has adopted a zero-tolerance policy against any form of illegal drug trade, so whether a person seeks to smuggle illicit substances in or out of the country, they will face similar legal challenges.
The severe penalties for drug-related offences reflect the government’s determination to curb the spread of illegal drugs and protect public health.
Generally, Singaporean society supports these strict measures and views them as essential to safeguarding the well-being of the community and deterring drug-related activities.
Still, it’s important to watch out for proposed changes to the MDA to keep up with how the laws concerning drug-related offences will change in the future.