Back in February of 2016, Norway made headlines by ruling that convicted drug users will be given the ability to sign up for treatment rather than going to prison. The so-called narkotikaprogram was lauded as the morally and ethically correct approach to lowering overdose and addiction rates.
Now, two years later, the country is taking it one step further – Norway's Parliament (Storning) has just voted in favor of decriminalizing all drug use, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and such, and sending offenders to rehab instead of assigning jail time.
The proposal was met with overwhelming positivity with only 42 out of 175 Parliament members voting against. It follows the footsteps of Portugal, which has decriminalized all drug use in 2001 and observed an almost 85% decrease in deaths caused by drug overdose.
The legislation hasn't been drawn up yet and critics predict it might not be earlier than 2021 that it actually goes into effect, but it's definitely a start of something big for Norway and other Scandinavian countries as well. Explaining their reasons, some Parliament members said:
"The majority wants to stop punishing people who struggle, but instead give them help and treatment. [...] Those who have a substance abuse problem should be treated as ill, and not as criminals with classical sanctions such as fines and imprisonment."
The politicians want to make it clear they are not legalizing drugs, just decriminalizing them which means people found with small quantities wouldn't be imprisoned but offered healthier ways of recovery.
In the same manner, Norway has relaxed its punishment for LSD possession from jail time to community service earlier this year. Back then, former Supreme Court judge Ketil Lund said about the issue of sentencing policies for drug possession and use:
"The penalty level has been developed with a tragic faith in the preventive effects [...] an intense exaggeration of how dangerous and harmful the drugs are.
The expert knowledge hasn’t been based on reliable science, but has rather been influenced by the propaganda, the myths and extreme isolated incidents."
We said this before and we'll say it again – demonizing drug users helps no one, only perpetuates the stereotype and prevents people from seeking help. However, providing resources to climb out of addiction ensures a healthier, happier and safer society for everyone.