Norway Becomes Second Country To Enact Decriminalization Of Drugs
Last week a majority of Norway’s parliament voted to decriminalize drugs, instead intending to focus on treatment and follow-up programs for those struggling with drug abuse in lieu of punishment. Moreover, those found with small amounts of drugs, even heroin or cocaine, will be offered treatment in place of arrest.
Parliament stressed, however, that they are not looking to legalize drugs, but rather to decriminalize drug use. Like most countries, in Norway people battling addiction have historically been treated as criminals, facing fines and incarceration.
Parliament members called the vote a “historic transformation of Norwegian drug policy” and intend to bestow responsibility to health agencies rather than the justice system.
This move comes after several years of consideration – a test program was established in 2006 in Olso and Bergen to sentence drug users to treatment instead of jail. A decade later, the courts were permitted to implement this option nationally.
The Norwegian Minister of Health, Bent Høie, recently changed his position on the issue, stated that he now advocates for treatment instead of punishment. Some parliament members, however, contend that decriminalization sends the wrong message to drug users that their habit is not a serious one.
Norway follows in the footsteps of Portugal, which was the first country to enact decriminalized of drugs in 2001 after it was determined that strict punitive measures were not improving the drug epidemic. They became the first country to do so, and in 15 years, statistics show that it has seen a decrease in drug use and overdose deaths.
The Transform Drug Policy Foundation issued a report from 2014 revealed that the number of Portugal residents who used drugs at some point in the lives increased from 1001-2012, but the number of people actually using drugs in the month or year before survey decreased. A result that implies that fewer people were using drugs on an active basis.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology