By Owen Heimsoth | NORWAY
The Norway Parliament has just moved forward with plans to decriminalize illegal drugs.
First off, it is important to realize that there is a difference between legalizing and decriminalizing. When legalization occurs, a country will lift any punishments that may occur when someone uses illegal drugs. When decriminalization occurs, users are not punished for possessing small amounts. Instead, they are sent to rehabilitate instead of go to jail.
In a recent vote by the Norwegian Parliament (Storting), four of the nine parties voted in favor of decriminalizing drugs in the country. The Conservatives, Labor Party, Socialist Left, and Liberals were the parties in support. They together make up 133 of the 175 seats in the parliament.
Nicolas Wilkinson, the Socialist Lefts’s health spokesman in the Parliament to VG, said, “The majority will stop punishing people who struggle, but instead give them help and treatment.”
Norway’s Parliament is following the lead of Portugal, who decriminalized all drugs 16 years ago in 2001. This has ended up being a great move for the country as they only have three overdose deaths per one million people among Portuguese adults.
Before 2001, the Portuguese government fought an intense war on drugs. The government fought back like the US is today: increased sentences and spending more money on investigations. But the problem would not go away. 1% of the population was addicted to heroin. They also had one of the worst HIV/AIDs problems in the European Union. How would they turn this around?
They decriminalized, and it worked.
They have the lowest percentage of cannabis use among those aged 15-34. HIV has infection has dropped from 104.2 per million people new cases a year to 4.2 per million people since 2001. And as previously mentioned, they have the second least drug-related deaths in the EU.
And by no means does Norway have a drug problem like Portugal did in the 1980s. Norway has only slightly more cannabis use than Portugal today among adults (15-64) at 4% of people using. Only 1% use cocaine. Less than 1% use ecstasy. (Source)
But if they follow the same trend as Portugal, they could almost wipe out drug use. The rest of the world should take notice.
The best way to end the war on drugs is to decriminalize.