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As Singapore hangs man, these are the nations with the harshest drug laws

Singapore has executed a man accused of coordinating a cannabis delivery despite clemency petitions and protests. Here is a list of nations with the harshest drug laws

Cannabis, Ganja, drugs

BS Web Team New Delhi
Singapore on Wednesday executed another man for a drug offence, despite protests and growing international attention.

Tangaraju Suppiah, 46, of Tamil descent, was hanged at dawn in Singapore's Changi Prison after being convicted in 2018 of abetting the smuggling of 1.02 kilograms (2.2 pounds) of cannabis back in 2013.

Tangaraju's execution is the first in the country this year but is unlikely to be the last. In 2022, Singapore executed 11 people, all for drug-related offences. As is customary, Tangaraju's family was given only one week's notice before his execution.

According to advocates, at least 50 more people are awaiting their turn at the gallows. (Singapore has not disclosed the exact number of its death row inmates).

Activists in Singapore and elsewhere in the world pleaded with the Singapore government to postpone Tangaraju's execution, highlighting specific problems with the case and appealing for mercy.

"There are many ways to seek justice," Tangaraju's sister Leelavathy said, adding, "Just don't take someone's life."

In February 2021, the independent city-state executed another Singaporean man, Yacob Bamadhaj, for bringing at least two pounds of cannabis into Singapore in 2018.

However, Singapore, a city-state in Southeast Asia with 5.7 million people, is not the only country that imposes the death penalty as punishment for drug trafficking.

It is one of just 35 nations that still have the death penalty for drug offences, and is one of only eight countries in the world to hand out such a sentence regularly, said a report by Harm Reduction International.

Here is a list of nations with the strictest drug laws


The country has waged a brutal "war on drugs" under President Rodrigo Duterte, which has led to the extrajudicial execution of thousands of people suspected of being drug users and dealers.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has a zero-tolerance policy towards drug use, and offences such as possession and trafficking are punishable by jail time, public flogging, and in some cases, the death penalty.

China has some of the strictest drug laws in the world, making the possession of even small amounts of drugs punishable by lengthy prison terms or even the death penalty.

Iran has a zero-tolerance policy towards drug use, with possession and trafficking offences punishable by imprisonment, flogging, and sometimes the death penalty.

Malaysia has some of the toughest drug laws in Southeast Asia, with the death penalty applied to drug trafficking offences.

United Arab Emirates
Despite having a reputation for being lax regarding alcohol and nightlife, the UAE has strict laws against drug use and trafficking. Drug trafficking offences are punishable by life in prison or even the death penalty, while drug possession offences carry a minimum sentence of four years.

The strictest drug laws in Southeast Asia are found in Brunei, a small, oil-rich nation on the island of Borneo. The country has come under fire for using caning as a punishment for drug offences. Possession of drugs can result in long-term prison sentences and even the death penalty.

The drug laws in Japan are among the strictest in the developed world, and both possession and trafficking offences carry significant prison terms. Additionally, there are strict restrictions on prescription drugs in the country, and visitors must declare any medications they bring.

While some of these countries may seem unlikely to have strict anti-drug laws due to factors like their reputation for leniency or their status as closed-off or secretive nations, each of them has put strict laws and penalties for drug offences into place to combat drug use and trafficking.

Countries where cannabis is legal

The following countries have legalised cannabis for recreational use:

In 2018, the Canadian government debuted the Cannabis Act, which legalised and regulated the production, sale, distribution, and possession of recreational cannabis (for adults of legal age).

Georgia became one of the first countries in the world to legalise cannabis for both medical and recreational use by a ruling by the Constitutional Court of Georgia on July 30 2018.

Malta was the first EU country to legalise cannabis for those aged 18 or more on December 14, 2021, after decriminalisation was adopted in 2015. Medical use was announced as legal in 2018.

Cannabis became legal for recreational use on June 29, 2021, after the Supreme Court of Mexico decriminalised it. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador signed a bill allowing adults aged 18 and older to possess up to 28 grams and to grow up to six plants on their property.

South Africa
According to South Africa's Constitutional Court, cannabis can only be consumed by adults in private. There are still laws prohibiting the consumption of cannabis outside of personal property, as well as the buying and selling of cannabis.

On June 9, 2022, the commercial sale of cannabis was legalised. Since 2018, medical use has been legal, with patients required to have a prescription.

Commercial sales became legal in July 2017. President José Mujica signed legislation to legalise recreational cannabis in December 2013, and in 2014, legalised home cultivation of up to six plants, as well as the formation of Cannabis Social Clubs, a state-controlled marijuana dispensary regime.

United States
Recreational cannabis use is legal in 21 states, and the medical use of cannabis is legal in 37 states, with a doctor's recommendation. As of 2022, 10 states had also decriminalised cannabis, with an additional 16 states having decriminalised and then legalised it.

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First Published: Apr 27 2023 | 2:22 PM IST

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