A senior member of the Singapore government has voiced concern about the increasingly liberal approach to cannabis that various countries have adopted.

Thailand legalized medical cannabis use at the end of 2018 and it has already started supplying patients with products from a government-owned facility near Bangkok. The Thai capital is hosting the 13th Asean Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime, which brings together representatives of the 10 members that make up the Southeast Asian regional body.

Amrin Amin, Singapore’s Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Home Affairs, told the meeting that his country opposes legalization of marijuana.

He highlighted a missive from the World Health Organisation’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, which has proposed six recommendations that would change the international scheduling of cannabis and make research and medical use easier. Amrin said these changes would send out the wrong message.

“We thus urge all Asean member states to carefully assess these recommendations and its potential impact on the loosening of international controls on cannabis,” added Amrin.

There are currently 10 Asean member states: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam. It was set up to promote stability in the region and promote collaboration and cooperation.

Amrin said Asean has consistently taken a unified stand against drugs, and he urged his fellow nations to reject the WHO changes. He claimed that there is evidence on the harms of cannabis, but neglected to mention the various studies that have highlighted significant medical benefits.

Yet he chose an interesting setting to launch his plea, as Thailand is ramping up medical marijuana legalization efforts and it will soon allow all Thais to cultivate six cannabis plants in their homes. It also recently dropped hemp and low-THC cannabis extracts from its list of banned narcotics.

The other Asean countries are not so forward thinking when it comes to cannabis, although Malaysia has recently begun the process of abolishing the death penalty for anyone found with 200 g of marijuana. The House of Representatives of the Philippines will begin debating the merits of legalizing medical marijuana next month after three bills on the issue were filed.

In Singapore, possession of cannabis can result in a maximum of 10 years in prison, hefty fines and strokes of the cane under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Drug trafficking can result in the death penalty.