Usually writing about Norway has to do with their incredible strides to protect the environment, socially-conscious design solutions like the "doomsday vault" or just the fact that it's probably the nicest neighboring country to have. However, this time the topic sways in a different direction – drugs.
According to recent reports, Norway has relaxed punishment for the possession of LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide or just acid). From now on, individuals will no longer be sentenced to jail, instead, given community service for their crime.
The decision comes from one particular LSD case making it all the way to Supreme Court.
From 5 months in jail to 45 hours of community service
Henrik Akselsen, a 36-year-old computer programmer, was charged with possession and import of LSD after police found evidence of the drug in his apartment. The initial sentence was five months in jail.
Akselsen was not happy with the decision. Partnering with the psychedelic human rights advocacy organization EmmaSofia, he took his case all the way to Norway's Supreme Court arguing that the penalty level for import and dealings with LSD hasn't been reviewed since 1999 and doesn't take into consideration the recent updated scientific assessments. (Previously, use and possession of LSD was punished at the same level as that of amphetamine).
According to research cited by EmmaSofia, and many other papers for that matter, LSD is "far less risky than alcohol and tobacco." It is not considered an addictive drug and, in fact, many doctors now believe psychedelics such as LSD could be used for the treatment of addiction (read more – microdosing).
Looking at Akselsen's case, the Supreme Court took into consideration that he had no prior criminal record, and deemed the doses of LSD in his possession were meant for personal use to facilitate meditation and introspection.
In the end, Akselsen got away with 45 hours of "service work," Norway's equivalent to community service. According to former Supreme Court judge Ketil Lund:
"This is an important case. It says something about the Supreme Court's ability and will to change the law and match it with reality.
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."
Akselsen's case is a major win proving it's crucial for governments to revise their drug sentencing policies. Another major factor is that Norway has one of the highest proportions of overdose-caused deaths in the European Union – the decision to push for decriminalization measures instead of stricter penalties should set an example for others to follow. Demonizing drug users doesn't help anyone, only perpetuates the stereotype and prevents people from seeking help.