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Norway to Decriminalize Personal Drug Use and Possession

The government of Norway wants to decriminalize possession and use of all illicit substances, from marijuana to heroin.

The coalition government’s Liberal Party introduced a bill that would make “the use of drugs and the acquisition and possession of a small amount of drugs for own use” a civil rather than criminal offense. Under the proposed legislation, possession of up to two grams of cocaine, heroin or amphetamines would not be a criminal offense, while the limit for cannabis would be 10 grams. If an individual is found in possession of an illegal drug, law enforcement would still confiscate the substance but then issue a citation to a municipal advisory unit which could recommend a treatment program. If the individual refused treatment then they could face a fine.

“Decades of repression have taught us that punishment doesn’t work. On the contrary, punishment can make things worse,” Education Minister Guri Melby said, according to AFP. “Drug addicts need help, not punishment. We will no longer stand by and watch people being stigmatized and called criminals when they are in fact ill.”

The proposal seemingly has the support of their coalition partners in the Conservative Party whose leader, Erna Soldberg, has headed up the Norwegian government since 2013.

“I believe young people can be motivated to change behavior without the threat of force or criminal punishment,” Conservative Health Minister Brent Høie said. “This will make it easier to seek help when they need it, as they won’t have to fear jail or fines.”

The proposed measure follows a report issued by the Norwegian Drug Reform Committee in December calling for drug decriminalization. Norwegian government officials said the move was partly motivated by the United Nation’s recent adoption of World Health Organization’s recommendations to remove marijuana from the most restrictive scheduling category.

If passed into law, Norway would join several other European countries that have decriminalized the possession and use of drugs, such as the Netherlands where cannabis has been tolerated since the 1970s and Portugal which decriminalized all drugs in 2001.

Several states in the US have also taken steps to decriminalize drugs in recent times. On Election Day 2020, Oregon voted to decriminalize all drugs, while lawmakers in Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Virginia and Washington State are all considering psychedelic or other drug decriminalization measures for the 2021 session. Meanwhile, Vermont legislators are set to submit several bills to decriminalize all drugs and remove psychedelics from the state’s controlled substances list.

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