Norway offering people caught with drugs treatment instead of jail time

Norway offering people caught with drugs treatment instead of jail time

VicesDecember 15, 2017 By Reilly Capps

In Norway, drugs won't be given to kids. Won't be sold in vending machines.

But they won't be a crime, either.

That's the plan, anyway, now that the Norwegian parliament voted to move control of drug policy from the courts to the health department.

Get caught with a personal supply of drugs in Norway — less than 10 days worth — you'll go to a counselor's office, not a prison cell. 

If you keep getting caught, then maybe you'd get punished, the plan says. But not with a life sentence, like in America. Not with losing your right to vote. Not with taking away all your money and your kids.

"[We] will stop punishing people who struggle, but instead give them help and treatment," Nicolas Wilkinson, a spokesman for one of the leading parties, the Socialist Left, told a Norwegian newspaper.

Drug War cease fires work. Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001. Since then, drug use has fallen — not risen.

And the drug overdose rate in Portugal is tiny. How small? Compared to America, almost nothing. In an average American city the size of, say, Boulder, about 30 people will die from overdose per year. The same size city in Portugal would see only one death. One.

If America had Portugal’s overdose death rate, one life would be saved every 10 minutes.

[Graph comparing drug-induced deaths in Portugal, where drugs are decriminalized, and the U.S., where you do serious time. From the American Enterprise Institute.]

Norway already has a generally low prevalence of substance use, says the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Overdoses kill only a few hundred people every year.

Norway is now studying the Portuguese model, with its top officials traveling to Lisbon this upcoming February. But decriminalization in Norway is a ways off; the legislature will have to draft a full bill and vote on it.

So don't boof your ketamine in front of town hall just yet, or suck your nitrous balloons in the back of an Oslo squad car.

But maybe run for town council to see if you can do the same where you live. After all, Colorado legalized weed, Oregon is making drug possession a misdemeanor, not a felony, and Oregon may vote on legalizing mushrooms.

Because, who says what's happening in Norway and Portugal can't happen here?