Shanmuggam made a challenge to people against Singapore’s harsh drug penalties. Have a look at this popular meme going around the internet
The minister called on death penalty abolitionists to “go and study the places where laws have been relaxed, places where drugs have been legalised, find out what has happened and look at the number of deaths that have taken place in society, and then come back and let’s talk.”
The internet responded with the above meme, which perhaps made them feel very smart.
The four examples given in the meme must be treated with caution.
Netherlands for example, was quoted as the shining star of drug decriminalisation.
It doesn’t tell you though of how the liberal policies of The Netherlands’ have made it a marijuana Mecca. Tourists flock from the world over come to the country to partake in the drug culture, and then bringing stashes back home. This has put it at political friction with neighbouring countries Belgium and Germany.
The administration is now considering a ban of tourists from their “coffeeshops”. Each city of The Netherlands has some sort of regulation, but follows this blanket law: the banning of shops within 250 meters, or around 820 feet, of schools. Coffeeshops are also not allowed function during school hours.
Onno Hoes, the city’s mayor, said that more than 1 million foreign tourists visiting the city’s 13 licensed coffee shops every year has created “an unacceptable nuisance,” and brought filth and crime to the city.
Marjijuana use has also spawned blackmarket trade of hardcore drugs: easily observable on the city streets. And as with public drunkenness, being high in public is a nuisance and all too common in the streets of Amsterdam.
The meme talks about falling crime rates and prison closures, however on further reading you will realise that this has little to do with the drug trade.
In fact Amsterdam, the marijuana capital of Europe remains the most dangerous city in the Netherlands.
The link between drug decriminalisation and deaths cannot be conveniently attributed like this meme suggests. Although Portugal is widely reported to have seen success with its new approach to narcotics, one has to read deeper to understand if it is an anomaly rather than the norm.
The culture of the country, the attitudes, its collective history – these cannot be ignored and attributing success to decriminalisation is too simplistic.
Some have criticised improper compilation of statistics that has puffed the nation’s success.
Moreover, whilst death and crime fell, more people have become experimental. According to statistics compiled by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) between 2001-07, after decriminalisation, more people took cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines, ecstasy, and LSD.
There is a lot more behind the simple words of the meme. It is trying to convince you that the relaxation of drug laws in Singapore would lead to a more human society.
But would it?
How do you think our very conservative neighbours would react to us adopting a liberal approach to drugs? What would you think the Philippine President Rodrigo Durtete would say?
How would you feel if our city attracted tourists specifically for marijuana and mushroom use, because they couldn’t in their countries?
Would you feel safe for your children to be growing up in an environment where Netherlands-type coffeeshops were easily accessible?
Does it comfort you to know that your spouse could entertain themselves with friends through recreational drugs as easily available as duty unpaid cigarettes?
You wouldn’t like it would you?
Now, is the death penalty an effective deterrent to the drug trade?
Think about the business as a high risk job. Would you take the risk if you knew that the penalty for arrest is execution?
Not unless you were very stupid or very desperate: the very characteristics of the individuals whom were caught and put to death in Singapore.
If there was no death penalty, many more other than the stupid and desperate would be attracted to the trade. The culture of the business is one of easy money, promises of women and guarantees of guns and fights, sounds like exciting work for one brimming with testosterone.