Drug trials hardly elicit any sympathy from us. It testifies to the efficacy of state indoctrination that we, in our obsession with discipline and order, find unquestioning appeal in the logic of deterrence.
We have faith that our tough drug laws keep our streets safe. It may seem strict, but that’s tough justice for you, we would reason. But no matter how statistically fascinated we are with having low crime (or the low prevalence of drugs), it remains to be seen whether justice has been necessarily upheld.
There can be ruptures between law and justice, and this is clearly evinced in the Misuse of Drugs Act: ironically living up to its name, the Act has been misused with its narrow definition and interpretation to callously dispense away with both justice and human lives.
Mandating the death penalty for the trafficking of either 15g of diamorphine (or prescription-grade heroin), 500g of cannabis, 30g of cocaine or 250g of methamphetamine, the Act has been premised on the assumption that these amounts suggest a purpose beyond personal consumption.
However, it does not even require any actual physical act of trafficking for a tryst with the noose. An amendment in 1993 determined that the mere intention to traffic is tantamount to an act of trafficking itself.
Legal scholar Michael Hor has identified trafficking in Singapore to mean the selling, giving, transporting, sending, deliver or distributing of drugs, and this ‘breathtakingly wide’ scope allows a trafficking charge to be contrived out of even the most innocuous of behaviour – such as giving drugs for a partner to consume or passing to a friend for safekeeping. This negates the Act’s initial intention to discern ‘between dealers in drugs and the unfortunate addicts who are their victims’.
As the judiciary grapples with cases that hover between possession (which provides relatively light punishments) and trafficking, it is disturbing to realize that mere ambiguous semantics has precariously elevated the chances of ‘unfortunate addicts’ to suffer the certainty of death.