SINGAPORE - In January, a website was created to extol the purported virtues of marijuana, also known as cannabis and ganja.
Not surprisingly, the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) found the content of the Singapore Cannabis Awareness (SCA) website objectionable.
The CNB said the site had material that promoted the use of a prohibited substance and the Media Development Authority (MDA) had directed the site owners to remove the website contents.
The CNB and the MDA said in a joint statement last night that this was the first time that a website with drug-related content had been told to remove materials in their entirety.
They said the SCA should also remove similarly objectionable material from other sites.
One of the men who ran the site, Mr Yap Shiwen, told The New Paper that the site had been taken down last week.
He declined to comment further, saying that he was trying to manage the situation. "I prefer not to talk about (the matter) for now due to the media attention," he added.
The Facebook page of SCA was still active on Tuesday with at least two stories posted including one that gave five reasons that hemp should be legalised immediately.
In an earlier statement on Tuesday, the CNB said the website had made claims about the purported benefits of medical marijuana.
It said there had not been sufficient properly conducted and validated clinical trials to show that the purported benefits of marijuana outweigh its risks.
Its spokesman said that anyone who has valid evidence and wants to advocate for its medical use should "submit the scientific evidence to the appropriate health authorities who are in the best position to make a proper medical and scientific assessment".
Some countries and about 20 states in the US have allowed the use of medical marijuana. The drug is still illegal in most countries, but several have decriminalised it for personal use in small amounts.
On its Facebook page, the SCA said it aims to "raise awareness of the productive uses of cannabis in Singaporean society".
In an entry on Friday, the other person running the site, known only as "Mike", said: "Our website (has) never endorsed the use of cannabis in Singapore and never has.
"The website is purely an educational website with information on the cannabis plant."
The CNB said that first-timers and young persons in particular could be misled into believing that such "gateway drugs" are acceptable.
They can then be drawn into using more dangerous drugs resulting in life-long addiction.
It also said that it has been monitoring the website and its activities for a period of time and has assessed that its content "goes against the public interest as it promotes drug abuse in contravention of applicable Singapore laws".
Said CNB: "The website undermines Singapore's efforts in drug preventive education and erodes our society's resilience against drug abuse.
"Singaporeans enjoy a safe and secure environment because of our firm stance against drugs and crime, and central to this is our 'zero-tolerance' approach against the drug menace."
MOH: There are legal alternatives to medical marijuana
The New Paper had earlier asked the Ministry of Health (MOH) about its views on medical marijuana.
In a joint reply attributable to the MOH, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) and the Ministry of Home Affairs, it replied in an e-mail that there are currently legally available alternatives for patients in Singapore who require medication to deal with pain.
The MOH spokesman added: "The Government regularly reviews the relevance of our medical policies. On medical cannabis, the (MOH and the HSA) will continue to monitor developments on its use elsewhere in consultation with medical practitioners and the Central Narcotics Bureau."
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