Norway has voted to decriminalise drugs across the country in a landmark move that will see addicts treated instead of punished. Four out of nine parties in the country’s parliament voted in favour of the move as Norway becomes the first Scandinavian country to decriminalise.
It means users will be given treatment instead of a prison sentence and lawmakers hope it will free up police resources. Norway’s Health Committee was inspired by a recent trip to Portugal, a country which has implemented its own decriminalisation programme. While drug use and possession will still be illegal, decriminalisation would mark a shift in the authorities’ attitudes to users.
Nicolas Wilkinson, health chairman of the country’s Socialist Left Party, told VG: ‘This is the start of a big reform. Now a big effort is being done to switch the system from punishment to help.’ Sveinung Stensland, deputy chairman of the Storting Health Committee, added: ‘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.’
Portugal decriminalised drugs in 2001, and addicts there are given therapy or community service instead of being sent to prison. Like the model soon to be adopted in Norway, drugs still remain illegal in Portugal which means growing them, dealing and trafficking them carry criminal penalties. But if you are caught in possession of a small amount, the drugs are confiscated and the suspect is interviewed by social worker, a psychiatrist and lawyer. You could then be hit with sanctions which include a fine, travel bans and confiscation of professional licences. Addicts could also be sent to rehab or given community service.