Article by Owen Heimsoth, 71Republic
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.