Norway Has Voted to Decriminalize All Drugs – Should Others Do Likewise?

Amazingly, the country of Norway has voted to decriminalize all drugs. This philosophical question of whether or not to punish a criminal or try harder to reform him is not a new one. While there are some people who believe in maximum punishment and enforcement, which includes both the death penalty and solitary confinement, others prefer a more lenient approach and opt to invest more in rehabilitating criminals and integrate them right back into their society. 

Will Legal Drugs Destroy Society?

This question will always get very heated when the discussion turns to drugs. The war on drugs that America declared some years is believe to be a continual failure, all the way from the abuse of crack during the 1980s to the current problem with opioid abuse. Obviously, the first step would be defining exactly what drugs are, and the way they can and cannot be used. That entire answer has become a political one over the years. Many people argue that sugar may be the most additive, the most potent and the deadliest drug on Earth today, and the fact it is cheap, widely available, and even celebrated makes it even more dangerous. 

Consider Drugs that are Already Legal

Sugar is so engrained into society today that if anyone ever called it a “drug”, they would immediately get laughter and sneers. Every person who has minimal intelligent knows that alcohol is a drug, yet it is used for celebrations, it is sanctioned, and is severely taxed – so it can’t be all that bad, can it?  Pretty much the same could be said about cigarettes – although society has greatly restricted their public use over the past few decades.

Slowly, these are the comparisons that countries all over the world have been making. As a result of this viewpoint, Norway has voted to totally decriminalize all illegal drugs, and they have decided to treat offenders rather than sending them to prison. Even though parliamentary support for this legislation has been approved, it still has to make find its way through governmental approvals. 

Sveinung Stensland, who is a deputy chairman from the Storting Health Committee, made these comments regarding this decision:

“The change will take some time, but that means a changed vision: Those who have a substance abuse problem should be treated as ill, and not as criminals with classical sanctions such as fines and imprisonment.” 

This has not been a quick decision. Politicians in Norway have debated this issue for many years. In the year 2001, Portugal decided to decriminalize drugs, and this move resulted in the reduction of overdoses, HIV infections, and even drug-related crimes. For instance, in 2001, HIV infection cases were occurring at 104.2 new cases per million people. By the year 2015, that number fell to an amazing 4.2 new cases per million people. 

Obviously, a huge obstacle for this issue is the social stigma. The Guardian reported: 

“The language began to shift, too. Those who had been referred to sneeringly as drogados (junkies)—became known more broadly, more sympathetically, and more accurately, as “people who use drugs” or “people with addiction disorders.”

Today we see families in America suffer from an opioid epidemic that is only getting worse—fentanyl deaths have increased around 540% from 2014 to 2016. And the data from 2017 doesn’t look very promising. 

Many claim that President Richard Nixon publicly linked addiction to criminal activity as a means of suppressing minorities and other political radicals during the 1970s. It is believed that this mindset pretty forced legislators from America—and also the American public—to connect certain substances as evil and others as benign. And now since opioids are linked mostly to white working class Americans, there is criticism that opioids have been looked upon with understanding and compassion, while crack has been viewed upon as blight because it is an inner city issue.