In a bid to assist addicts, instead of lock users in cages, Norway’s parliament has recently voted to decriminalize all drugs. It particularly cited Portugal and its general success at reducing addiction and incarceration rates, getting people who need it into treatment, and drastically lowering crime and other problems related to the illegality of substances for personal use.
Four major political parties in Norway campaigned in favor of the revolutionary shift in policy. A majority vote in Storting, Norwegian parliament, brought to fruition their efforts, as Nicolas Wilkinson, health spokesman for the Socialist Left (SV) party, explained, to “stop punishing people who struggle, but instead give them help and treatment.”
As Storting Health Committee Deputy Chairman Sveinung Stensland told national publication, VG:
“It is important to emphasize that we do not legalize cannabis and other drugs, but we decriminalize.”
“The change will take some time, but that means a changed vision: those who have a substance abuse problem should be treated as ill, and not as criminals with classical sanctions such as fines and imprisonment.”
According to The Independent, the parties that backed the measure include the Conservatives (Hoyre), Liberals (Venstre), the Labor Party (Ap), and the Socialist Left (SV) Those voting in favor of full decriminalization directed the Norwegian government to reform its drug policies accordingly.
It was not only the relative success in Portugal which motivated Norwegian politicians to act in addicts’ better interests but also Norway’s timid experimentations with decriminalization.
Newsweek reports of that historic vote:
“It’s a big next step for the Scandinavian country, which has been dancing around the possibility of decriminalization for several years. In 2006, it started to test a program that would sentence drug users to treatment programs, rather than jail, in the cities Bergen and Oslo. In early 2016, the country gave Norwegian courts the option to do this on a national level.”
“The goal is that more addicts will rid themselves of their drug dependency and fewer will return to crime,” Justice Minister Anders Anundsen, quoted by Newsweek, asserted at the time. “But if the terms of the programme are violated, the convicts must serve an ordinary prison term.”
In the broadest strokes, that mimicked what Portuguese officials initiated on July 1, 2001, with its groundbreaking decision to offer compassion and efficient patient care for addicts wanting treatment, while rejecting the U.S.-led and failed planetary war on drugs.
Mic elaborated on Portugal’s policies in February 2015:
“If someone is found in the possession of less than a 10-day supply of anything from marijuana to heroin, he or she is sent to a three-person Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction, typically made up of a lawyer, a doctor and a social worker. The commission recommends treatment or a minor fine; otherwise, the person is sent off without any penalty. A vast majority of the time, there is no penalty.”
Portugal had reportedly experienced the worst of opioid crises as well as the highest proportion of drug-related AIDS deaths in the European Union before mass decriminalization, according to the Independent.
Furthermore, as journalist Glenn Greenwald, who authored an oft-cited Cato Institute white paper, published in April 2009, reiterated for Newsweek two years ago:
“None of the nightmare scenarios touted by preenactment decriminalization opponents — from rampant increases in drug usage among the young to the transformation of Lisbon into a haven for ‘drug tourists’ — has occurred.”
Nonetheless, decriminalization has not garnered unanimous support among parliament, as detractors cite both legitimate and propagandistically false information in the argument.
Portugal, the Netherlands, Uruguay, as well as a smattering of locations and cultures around the world — and, now, Norway, of course — have opted for common sense and proven effective treatment of addicts as patients in medical need, rather than wholly useless punishment and incarceration.
Several articles in the international press concerning decriminalization in Norway included ‘several U.S. states’ among these having loosened drug laws. However, it should be noted that the legalization and decriminalization measures in various states come weighted with governmental red tape and sticky fingers in the form of questionable taxation codes, restrictions, and so on. And the US remains gripped in the dark vortex of a spiraling opioid crisis, which mirrors the situation in Portugal several years ago.
Reference: The Mind Unleashed