Norway’s Parliament is set to decriminalize illicit drugs and divert people found with small quantities into treatment options rather than pursuing criminal prosecution.
Drug use, from marijuana to cocaine and heroin, would be decriminalized under the plan, similar to the system in Portugal, which has been held up as a model by drug law reformers worldwide as a preferable option to jailing drug users. The plan was supported by a majority of the Norwegian Parliament, known as the Storting.
A report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction earlier this year found that 8.6 percent of Norwegians ages 16 to 34 had used cannabis (marijuana) in the past year, with 2.2 percent using cocaine and 1.2 percent using MDMA (ecstasy). The report also found there were more than 48,000 drug law offenses in Norway, while 266 drug overdose deaths had occurred in the country in 2014.
The parliamentary result, however, does not automatically decriminalize illicit drugs in Norway. The vote directs the government to begin pursuing changes to laws to reflect the outcome of the vote. There is no draft legislation yet that actually would enact the change, according to Parliament.
“The majority in the parliament has asked the government to prepare for reform,” a Storting spokesperson told Newsweek. “It has started a political process… it’s just the starting point.”