The Norwegian Parliament has voted to legalize all drugs in Norway, effectively ending its failed war on drugs. The new drug policy is a complete shift away from punishing drug abuse victims and treating them as people in need of help instead.
The overwhelming majority (133 lawmakers, in the parliament of 175) voted in favour of ending the war on drugs and it is easy to understand why.
The war on drugs has cost taxpayers a lot of money and more importantly, it is not working. Drug overdose-related deaths have been growing steadily under the war on drugs and Norway is one of the worst affected countries.
The only country that has ever won the war on drugs is Portugal. Under the leadership of Antonio Guterres, (who is now the Secretary General of the United Nations) Portugal won the war on drugs by ending it.
Portugal adopted the strategy to treat drug users as patients in need and decriminalized all drugs in 2001. Since then Portugal has seen drug overdose deaths decreasing steadily. By now, it is down 85% and Portugal has the lowest drug related-death rate in Western Europe.
“The majority will stop punishing people who struggle, but instead give them help and treatment.” Nicolas Wilson from the Socialist Left was quoted saying by local media.
This is a very promising development and hopefully, other countries in the region are watching closely as they have very similar problems of their own (Sweden and Estonia perhaps).
Despite the obvious evidence of how decriminalization played out in Portugal, it is taking a long time for other countries to change their drug policies and stop the ever increasing overdose deaths. For counties to go down the decriminalization path means admitting that the war on drugs has failed and all the money spent on it was wasted as well as millions of human lives.
Many politicians are not willing to do that and stay away from the topic altogether… while people are dying every day.
The political risk of taking action outweighs the downside of drastically increasing overdose deaths.
Now, that Norway stood up and followed Portugal, hopefully, we’ll see more and more countries following suit and soon the end of the failed war on drugs.
Sir Richard Branson has been the member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy since 2011 and he has published a great post with some touching personal stories about the drug decriminalization in Norway that is worth reading here.