Synthetic marijuana sold in Geylang coffee shop
Drug pushers dish out illegal narcotics at Geylang coffee shop
This coffee shop in Geylang is known for its authentic Chinese dishes and steaming hot buns.
In the evenings, it is a favourite haunt for foreign workers, who eat in the outdoor seating area while watching Chinese period dramas on a big-screen television set.
A two-hour stakeout by The New Paper, acting on a tip-off, found a group of peddlers taking over at one of the outdoor tables, at the rear of the coffee shop, later at night.
What the men, who sounded local, were selling is a deadly mix of narcotics. They include prescription drugs such as codeine and valium as well as hydrocodone, a semi-synthetic opioid formed from codeine and K4, a synthetic variant of cannabis.
The last two drugs are known as new psychoactive substances (NPS), which are designed to mimic such illegal drugs as cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy. They are listed by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) as Class A controlled drugs.
The activities played out each night at the coffee shop are cause for concern, especially after the findings by the Task Force on Youths and Drugs were announced yesterday.
The task force revealed that more "liberal" young people were arrested for drug offences last year. (See report on Page 4.)
There is also growing concern that young abusers are turning to NPS drugs in the belief that they are more difficult to detect. But the CNB has dispelled this myth. (See report on facing page.)
Synthetic marijuana is openly sold in some US states where they are legal but there are growing concerns about them because they can be more potent than marijuana itself.
Last December, the Second Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, told TNP that abusers below the age of 21 tend to hold three views: "If I try a little bit, I will not get addicted. If I try a little, it will not be detected. There are substances that will not be detected at all."
These are myths, Mr Masagos said.
The three drugs of concern are ice (methamphetamine), cannabis and NPS, he said.
During the stakeout earlier this week, TNP observed more than 14 people approaching the pushers at the table to buy drugs. They were all men, except for one couple, and mostly seemed to be in their 20s.
One potential customer was overheard asking about hydrocodone. But before he could finish his sentence, a runner said in Hokkien: "Just go to the table and tell them what you want."
Most transactions lasted less than 10 seconds. Money was handed to a peddler, who would then retrieve drugs from a nearby motorcycle box or a shelf behind the table and hand them to the buyer.
While two pushers sat at the table throughout the night, another four or five runners were roving about, each carrying sling bags.
These runners could be seen occasionally handing plastic bags to the pushers at the table. The bags are believed to contain drugs to replenish the stock in the motorcycle box or on the shelf.
At other times, the runners would act as lookouts or stare at the mobile phone screens of customers sitting nearby.
A peddler was also observed cutting tablets from blister packs and later seen holding sachets of an unknown substance.
A source had told TNP that K4 was sold there in small packets for between $30 and $60 depending on the quantity.
TNP went back to the coffee shop on another afternoon and asked a youth sitting at the table whether we could buy K4.
Without looking up from his mobile phone, he said curtly: "Come back at night."
As it would have been an offence, TNP did not follow through with the purchase.
Not far from the coffee shop, several empty blister packs of prescription drugs such as diazepam and nitrazepam as well as empty cough mixture bottles could be seen littering the drains.
Those who consume or possess NPS drugs can be jailed up to 10 years and fined $20,000, or both.
Those who traffick, manufacture, import or export NPS drugs can be jailed for at least five years and given five strokes of the cane.
Minister: Don't be fooled, cannabis is addictive
CAUTIOUS: Second Minister for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli is worried about the liberal attitude of young Singaporeans towards drugs. He is seen here with Ms Sim Ann, Minister of State for Education, at a media briefing. - TNP PHOTO: ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF
It goes by street names such as ganja, weed and mary jane.
But in the eyes of the Singapore authorities, cannabis abuse is a worrying trend that has permeated the younger segments of society.
Of equal concern is the growing proportion of new drug abusers below the age of 30.
In 2010, they made up half of all new abusers arrested.
Last year, when there were 3,158 drug arrests, roughly two-thirds were new abusers.
Many abusers below the age of 21, who had formed drug clusters, had used cannabis.
On Tuesday, the Second Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, revealed the findings of the Task Force on Youths and Drugs at a media briefing.
He said: "Looking at the trend, we are worried of the larger number of youth arrested over the last year, particularly the last six months...
"One of our biggest worries through the findings of the survey as well as focus group discussions is the more liberal attitudes of our young towards drugs."
Some youngsters in Singapore think it is all right to abuse cannabis for recreational purposes as it is not addictive or harmful.
But such views are "wrong and dangerous", said Mr Masagos in a speech at yesterday's launch of the anti-drug abuse carnival.
He said: "Cannabis can also be addictive. Heroin and methamphetamine addicts in our prisons have been known to start their drug addictions with cannabis."
The task force's findings finger the Internet as a source of information for youth who had taken cannabis.
The websites tout cannabis as a "soft" drug. Others argue that cannabis has been unfairly labelled as a "gateway" to harder drugs like ice or heroin.
Among other myths, sellers of herbal smokes or synthetic cannabis like K4 boast that users will never fail a urine test because the products' contents cannot be detected.
The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) has rubbished this claim.
A CNB spokesman explained that K4 is one of the many street names used for synthetic cannabis.
Other street names include spice, K2, bath salts and kronic, according to the CNB website.
The spokesman told The New Paper yesterday: "CNB would like to caution all those who are tempted into abusing drugs, including synthetic cannabis, to think twice.
"Many illicit drugs contain unknown substances that may cause physical or psychological harm, such as hallucination and in extreme cases, even death."
"CNB has seized new psychoactive substances (NPS) in the past year, and synthetic cannabis and synthetic cathinones are the two most commonly detected NPS in Singapore."