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At a time when numerous jurisdictions across the U.S. are weighing drug decriminalization proposals, the government of Norway on Friday proposed a bill to end the criminalization of personal possession of illicit substances.
Officials from the country’s Liberal Party unveiled the decriminalization legislation, which would make low-level possession a civil offense, rather than one that carries criminal penalties. Possession cases would also require mandatory treatment.
“Decades of repression have taught us that punishment doesn’t work. On the contrary, punishment can make things worse,” Education Minister Guri Melby said during a press conference on Friday, 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 official said.
Refusal to comply with substance misuse treatment could result in a fine, but not the threat of jail time, under the proposal.
While drug policy reform advocates strongly oppose incarceration for consumers, many also have concerns about forcing people into treatment that they may not want or need.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Bent Hoeie, who is part of the Norway’s Conservative Party, agreed with the government that “young people can be motivated to change behavior without the threat of force or criminal punishment.” He added that the proposed policy change “will make it easier to seek help when they need it, as they won’t have to fear jail or fines.”
The legislation would make it so people would not face criminal penalties for possession up to two grams of cocaine, heroin or amphetamines. Meanwhile, the possession threshold for marijuana would be ten grams.
The reform comes after the Norwegian Drug Reform Committee recommended that the government enact decriminalization in a report in December.
This policy conversation around decriminalization certainly isn’t limited to Norway, however.
In the U.S., voters in Oregon approved a ballot measure to decriminalize all drugs in November.
Massachusetts lawmakers on Friday introduced legislation that would remove criminal penalties for possession of all drugs.
Legislators in Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Washington State, Virginia and other states are also considering psychedelics and drug policy reform bills for the 2021 session.
In Vermont, meanwhile, legislators are expected to file a number of drug reform bills in coming weeks, including a measure to decriminalize all drugs and a separate proposal to remove psychedelic plants and fungi from the state’s list of regulated substances.