The Norwegian government said that it plans to decriminalise the personal use of illegal drugs, acting on the recommendations from the United Nations and World Health Organization (WHO).
The decision would see the country remove criminal liability on people who obtain, possess and use a small amount of drugs for their own use. The acts will remain illegal, but not punishable, according to a health-care ministry proposals.
Those proposing the bill said that “that criminal prosecution of drug users can be counterproductive as it deters those with abuse problems from seeking help.”
In an email statement to Bloomberg, Health Minister Bent Hoie said “The drug reform is a historic shift in Norwegian drug policy. It’s high time we replace punishment with help.”
Education Minister Guri Melby reiterated the sentiments at a press conference yesterday, stating, “Decades of repression have taught us that punishment doesn’t work. On the contrary, punishment can make things worse…Drug addicts need help, not punishment.”
According to a survey published in early February by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, around 5% of respondents in Norway say they have used cannabis in the last 12 months, and 1% have tried psychotropic drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines.
This bill will establish clear thresholds for what is considered a “small amount” for different drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, amphetamines and cannabis, on a case by case basis.
Once the thresholds for each drug are agreed upon, anyone will found with below-threshold drugs on their person, will have the drugs confiscated by police and they will be ordered to appear in front of a municipal advisory unit, the health ministry has said.
Norway was found to have one of the highest-drug related mortality rates in Europe, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
Norway had 66 cases of drug-related deaths per million adults in 2017, compared with an average of 23.7 for the European Union.