Amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act and the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore to Introduce a New Legislative Framework for Psychoactive Substances

1.   The Misuse of Medications (Amendment) Invoice 2023 [‘MDA Bill’] and the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Modification) Invoice 2023 were released for Very first Reading in Parliament nowadays.


2.   The Misuse of Medications Act (MDA) delivers the legal framework for Singapore authorities to control dangerous and hazardous medicine. It criminalises the trafficking, manufacture, importing, exporting, possession, and use of illicit medicines supplies for the enforcement powers of the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) and addresses the procedure and rehabilitation of drug abusers. 

3.   The proposed amendments to the MDA and the Structure of the Republic of Singapore will:

(a)   Introduce a new legislative framework for psychoactive substances. It will criminalise the trafficking, manufacture, importing, exporting, possession, and usage of psychoactive substances. It will also let for the arrest and detention of abusers of psychoactive substances for procedure and rehabilitation and

(b)   Increase the punishment for the possession of huge quantities of additional hazardous and hazardous managed medicine. 

Essential Amendments

Introduce a new legislative framework for psychoactive substances

4.   New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) are defined by the United Nations Office on Medicines and Crime (UNODC), as substances of abuse, possibly in their pure kind or a preparation, which are not managed by the international drug management conventions, but which could pose a general public overall health risk. These substances mimic the consequences of controlled medicines this kind of as hashish, heroin and cocaine. The UNODC pointed out that as of April 2022, there have been at minimum 1,150 NPS described throughout the world, which is a substantial maximize from just 166 in conclusion-2009. A lot of of these NPS have no legitimate use, and their abuse has been connected to adverse physical and psychological reactions, such as paranoia, seizures, hallucinations and even demise. 

5.   Worryingly, drug syndicates are getting ever more adept at altering chemical constructions of present NPS, to deliver new forms of psychoactive substances which are not managed beneath the international drug conventions and governments’ schedules of managed medications, to circumvent the legislation. This has been a challenge for regulation enforcement agencies all over the world. 

6.   In Singapore, the number of NPS abusers arrested has amplified drastically in the past handful of several years. Concerning 2014 and 2017, the overall quantity of NPS abusers arrested was 11. The quantity has due to the fact amplified to an ordinary of about 235 abusers every calendar year concerning 2018 to 2022. 

7.   Currently, NPS are listed as managed prescription drugs in the First Program of the MDA, possibly individually or grouped by their main molecular framework. In addition, the Fifth Routine of the MDA makes it possible for for the short-term listing of novel sorts of NPS for up to 12 months, all through which time CNB officers are empowered to seize the substances listed, in buy to prohibit circulation although scientific assessment and field consultations are conducted to figure out if there is reputable use. If no genuine works by using are recognized, the substances will be outlined in the Very first Agenda of the MDA.  

8.   As traffickers and abusers now change pretty promptly to new sorts of psychoactive substances that have however to be mentioned as controlled medications, the authorities are often taking part in catch-up, thanks to the lag from the time a new type of psychoactive compound is initially detected to the time it is stated in the Initially Program of the MDA. In the course of this time period when the psychoactive material is unlisted, enforcement and prosecutorial motion can’t be taken versus those who offer in the substance. 

9.   To strengthen our reaction to the escalating risk of NPS, the MDA Invoice will introduce a new legislative framework to regulate substances based mostly on their capability to produce a psychoactive result, alternatively than on their chemical composition. All these types of substances will be outlined as “psychoactive substances”. The MDA Bill proposes to criminalise the trafficking, manufacture, importing, exporting, possession, and intake of psychoactive substances. This will allow for CNB to take enforcement action versus illicit things to do involving psychoactive substances that are not but scheduled as controlled medicines. Comparable techniques have been adopted by the United Kingdom and Australia.[1]

10.   The new legislative framework will not use to psychoactive substances that have authentic works by using or are managed beneath other regulatory frameworks. These substances will be precisely outlined in an exclusion program. Illustrations of this kind of excluded substances contain alcoholic beverages, tobacco and food additives. In addition, the legislation also offers that an accused man or woman can invoke a defence if the psychoactive substance is meant to be applied for a respectable objective.  

11.   The punishment framework for offences beneath this legislative framework will get reference from the punishment framework for Class C controlled medication. 

12.   The MDA Bill also proposes enhanced punishments for repeat offenders involving either psychoactive substances or managed medication. For case in point, if an offender has an antecedent for trafficking in a managed drug, and is now convicted of trafficking in a psychoactive compound, he will be viewed as a repeat trafficker and will be issue to enhanced punishment for the offence of trafficking. 

13.   The MDA Monthly bill will supply Director CNB with the powers to commit a suspected abuser of psychoactive substances for health-related evaluation or observation, matter an abuser of psychoactive substances to supervision, and commit an abuser of psychoactive substances to treatment method and rehabilitation. These align with Director CNB’s existing powers with respect to managed prescription drugs. Appropriately, the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Modification) Bill will amend Post 9 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore to expressly extend its ambit to the new laws which authorise the arrest and detention of abusers of psychoactive substances for treatment and rehabilitation. Presently, Write-up 9(6)(b) assures the constitutional validity of the provisions in the MDA which authorise the arrest and detention of abusers of managed drugs for cure and rehabilitation.

Growing punishment for possession of big portions of controlled medicine considered to be much more hazardous and dangerous

14.   CNB has noticed in the latest several years that syndicates are ready to offer in much larger quantities of controlled medications in each transaction. This change may possibly correlate with abusers acquiring larger sized portions of drugs in a solitary transaction, instead of a number of smaller quantity purchases. A man or woman in possession of huge quantities of prescription drugs would have appreciably contributed to the area drug need scenario.  

15.   The present sentencing framework for drug possession does not adequately account for the opportunity hurt that could be brought on by individuals with large quantities of medications in their possession. A extra deterrent punishment is important.  

16.   The MDA Monthly bill therefore proposes improved punishments, including caning, for the possession of chosen controlled medication earlier mentioned particular pounds thresholds. The drug forms for which the punishment for the possession offence will be greater are morphine, diamorphine, opium, cocaine, hashish, cannabis resin, hashish combination and methamphetamine. In our nearby drug abuse predicament, they are the prescription drugs that cause the most major harms.

[1]   Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, United Kingdom and (ii) Element 9.2 Psychoactive Substances, Legal Code Act 1995, Australia.


1.   Amendments to Misuse of Drugs Act Infographics (PDF, 91.5 KB)