Norway may be about to rather drastically change its drug policy. The new policy would seek not to punish those who use drugs but instead offer help and support to those who need it. And if they the user does not need the help? Then they may be simply left alone. To many, this is a controversial take on drug policy, however it is not the first policy of its kind in Europe.
Portugal is the role model
Portugal decriminalized all recreational drug use in 2001, as desperate action to attempt to deal with its serious drug problem. However, two decades later the results are difficult to deny. Portugal has demonstrated how funding and resources can be moved from away from police and judiciary powers and towards healthcare and preventive measures instead
An expert panel of doctors, social scientists and psychologists, as well as representatives of Norwegian user groups, was assembled to perform an investigation for a potential drug reform.
The state investigation called ‘Rusreform – fra straff til hjelp’, or ‘The drug reform – from punishment to help’, was presented in late 2019. It suggested that the personal purchase, possession and use of recreational drugs should be decriminalised and not punishable offense in Norway. Norway may be following in Portugal’s footsteps.
There is a difference between legalization or decriminalization
Keep in mind that decriminalisation does not mean legalisation. Norway’s new policy will not make drugs legal. A person who uses, possess, or purchases a small amount for his own personal use of drugs will not be treated as a criminal. However, this does not necessarily mean there will be no consequences.
Instead, the principal rule is that the individual is referred to a special counselling unit, where they can offer help if necessary, or just get information about any potential problems with drug use.
This progressive policy came from Norway’s conservatives
Perhaps surprisingly to people outside of Nordic country, it’s Norway’s Conservative Party that is proposing these reforms. Also known as the Høyre Party (The Right Party), the conservatives had decided in March 2017 to reform its drug policy program and began work on its investigation.
In summary, the decision was made that the judiciary should pass over the responsibility for drug problems to the health care system. It was decided that drug policy should be informed by a scientific basis, which is difficult to argue with.
Norway’s leftist labour party has been quite outwardly against the proposal. Norway’s 2021 election will be taking place on September 13th; the result of which could determine the fate of proposal, at least for time being.