Singapore Just Sentenced a Man to 13 Years in Prison and Beating for Selling Weed
As extreme as this sentence is, Singapore's punishments for drug trafficking are often far, far worse.
Published on January 10, 2023

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A 45-year-old man is about to be beaten with a cane and locked behind bars for 13 years just for trying to sell weed in Singapore. 

Singapore's Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) initially charged Narkkeeran Arasan, a native of India, for possessing weed with intent to sell in April of 2021. Arasan admitted to buying a “book” of cannabis, which he thought meant one kilogram of bud, for 3,000 SGD (about $2,250 US), according to the Deccan Herald. The unfortunate man told cops that he intended to resell the weed because he was under serious “financial stress.” He did not, however, even manage to sell one single joint before getting arrested.

After paying off his dealer, Arasan collected a brick of grass from a storm drain and piled it into a car service. Cops busted him on the way and seized the massive block of supposed bud from his bag. The brick contained more than 937 grams of vegetable matter, but it turns out that only about a third of it was actually weed. Arasan might have been ripped off by his dealer, but that shortchange may have saved his life.

Anyone caught possessing under 100 grams of weed, or about 3.5 ounces, of weed in Singapore, can be sentenced to up to six years in jail. Possession of up to 330 grams, or 11.6 ounces, is punishable by 13 to 15 years in prison. Fortunately, Arasan was caught with 329.99 grams of weed and received a minimum of 13 years plus 10 strokes of the cane. The penalty for trafficking larger quantities of weed in Singapore is death by hanging, though courts are not shy about enforcing this sentence.

In 2021, a 41-year-old man was sentenced to death by hanging for smuggling two pounds of weed into the country. Last year, 17 other people who had been sentenced to death for drug offenses filed a historic lawsuit alleging that the country's drug laws are driven by racial bias. The suit was thrown out, and the attorney who fought for the prisoners was forced to pay heavy fines. Over the course of last summer, authorities hanged at least six men for drug offenses, including two plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Singapore's draconian drug laws are sadly typical for Southeast Asia. Nearly three dozen countries still impose death penalties for drug trafficking, and hundreds of people have been executed in Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines in the past few years alone. 

But in 2018, Thailand bucked this cannabis-hating trend by legalizing medical marijuana. Since then, the country's industry has grown by leaps and bounds, and Thai officials even decriminalized cannabis possession, cultivation, and use last year. Malaysia also recently legalized medical marijuana, but people caught trafficking weed can still face death sentences.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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