In assessing their potential medical benefits, it is important to differentiate between unprocessed or raw cannabis and cannabinoids contained in pharmaceutical products.
This was the position expressed by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Health in a joint statement issued on Tuesday (12 February), which sought to clarify the government’s position on cannabinoids.
Found in the cannabis plant, cannabinoids are chemical compounds which can be medically administered through products such as oral solutions and sprays.
“Our drug control policies are underpinned by evidence and research… Cannabis is clearly addictive and harmful, and there is no scientific evidence of the safety and efficacy of raw cannabis use. This supports our position that cannabis should remain an illicit drug,” said the statement.
“At the same time, we will continue to allow safe and controlled access to evidence-based medical treatment options.”
Harmful: Raw, unprocessed cannabis
To date, there have been no studies to validate the claims of unprocessed or raw cannabis being able to treat medical conditions, the ministries noted.
Instead, an “extensive literature review” conducted in 2015 by the Institute of Mental Health affirmed its “harmful and addictive nature”.
The study, which looked at over 500 papers from reputable medical journals along with other literature by international medical bodies, concluded that cannabis consumption is associated with “irreversible brain damage, brain shrinkage, and serious mental/psychiatric illnesses”.
Potentially helpful: Cannabinoids
On the possible therapeutic use of pharmaceutical products containing cannabinoids, the statement noted that there is some published research on its use in managing seizures and epilepsy.
“Such cannabinoid pharmaceuticals need to undergo rigorous scientific review by the Health Sciences Authority before they can be registered for supply in Singapore,” said the ministries.
“Manufacturers are required to substantiate the safety, quality and efficacy of the cannabinoid pharmaceuticals based on scientific evidence from clinical studies and data on the manufacturing process.”
Zero-tolerance policy on drugs
Reiterating the government’s stance on illicit drugs – including cannabis – the statement said such substances are “harmful, addictive, and can destroy lives, families and communities”.
Singapore’s approach to “tackling both drug supply and demand” has brought the number of drug abusers arrested in 2018 to “less than 0.1 per cent of our population”, the ministries noted.
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