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23 Reasons why not decriminalize drugs use.

Poster of Anti drug campaign in the U.S.

The following is stated in the investigation made by the Norwegian Narcotics Governmental Committee  which members, more than 100 consultative bodies, has made a public statement in late February. The picture that emerges is the following:

1) the drug situation in Norway is improving,

2) law enforcement efforts should be reinforced,

3) amicable measures for adolescents should be done in legal terms.

4) a clear majority of Norwegian Experts does not want either legalization or decriminalization of drug use in Norway.

5) there are no scientific arguments for the legalization of drug use,

6) countries that have experimented with legalization or decriminalization had problems.

7) drug Status in Norway as of 2012 is that the number of overdose deaths have been reduced. The use of heroin has gone down 20-30 percent in the last 10 years. The use of cannabis is slightly down, and the number of young people who have tried cannabis is strongly downward. The steep increase in cocaine use has stopped. Norwegian Narcotics Police Association with its 2600 members, of which 350 offciers are from Customs, has followed the last developments very closely and can confirm that the situation is far from black in Norway. On the contrary, the situation is improving.

8) in one area there is strong reason to worry. This applies to the new synthetic drugs, often called “legal highs”. The use of these is increasing, and there are 600 online shops in Europe. In 2011, 8 new substances were taken into the forbidden drug list. It’s seems good, but when 100 new substances are identified in the last three years, the pace must accelerate when it comes to getting new synthetic drugs onto the list.

9) the Committee also think that the anti narcotic laws should take this new situation (new synthetic drugs) into account,  since the Norwegian Supreme Court has pointed out that the current criminal laws can not be applied to all new synthetic drugs now entering into the market.

10) In 2010 there were 248 drug deaths in Norway. Number of drug deaths worldwide is about 200 000 per year. Deaths caused by alcohol, tobacco and licit psychoactive substances are approximately 7.5 million per year, ie almost 40 times higher. Drugs are illegal trade in virtually all countries, while alcohol, tobacco and psychoactive are legal merchandise. According to the UN drug office  these figures contains the best argument for a restrictive drug policy.

11) Legalization advocates have tried to create the impression that the punishment for drug use, even for the first time, is why there are so many drug prisoners in Norwegian prisons. That is not true, according to the Committee. In fact the first time drug use  hardly results in an unconditional prison sentence. Production, trafficking and turnover, however, are punished severely, and so shall it be.

12) Many of the respondents to the consultation clearly states that the legal actions against drug users should be handled by police, police prosecutors and the courts.

13) Furthermore, the Committee also believe that alternative sanctions for young people should be supported, for example, conditional waiver on terms of future abstinence. That this gives good results was confirmed by the ngo “HOPE – the project”, which combines lower punishment if the drug users do not relapse, having clear conditions and lightning fast reaction in case of breach of these conditions.

14) the Norwegian Crime Prevention Council states that “… the criminal provisions represent an important norm boundary, particularly with regard to underage drug users …”,

15) and the statement of the Norwegian Ministry of Justice which states that “… we must show clearly that the possession and abuse in youth groups carries and will be met with clear legal sanctions. There is little doubt that many young people organize their behavior according to society’s limits and sanctions … “.

16) Legalization advocates focus on informal agreements on health care treatment. The reasoning for this including the high costs of the justice sector. The fact that quality care is important, the Committee fully agree in. The argument about costs in the justice sector stands out, however, as too little nuanced, and must be considered in the perspective that the treatment is expensive – with costs of up to USD 450  per day, and with waiver during the treatment period of as much as 70 percent.

17) At one point there is complete agreement between supporters and opponents, it is that prevention is crucial, and that home and school are the key prevention arenas. “It’s worrying.”

18) Eighty percent of respondents to the consultation who answered the question said “yes” for renewed anti narcotic efforts made by the police and customs.

19) Price mechanism also applies to the drug market. The larger the seizures, the higher the prices, and the lower the risk that young people start using drugs.

20) Alternative measures for heavily dependent users is not opposed to the resolute responses to youth at risk, which is the most important target group.

21) Each country’s police and customs officers can only stop some of the drugs that pass their own border. But the drugs are transported across many borders, such as heroin from Afghanistan, cannabis from North Africa and cocaine from South America. On every border the authorities seize a certain amount  of drugs. If you had added up all the drugs captured/seized  along the long route, one would have seen that customs and police were able to stop between 40 and 50 percent of drugs that have Norway as the final goal of.  That is a pretty good result, says the Norwegian Committee.

22) Also, the Committee is aware of the negative secondary effects. If Norway liberalize the use of drugs, there will also be harder for customs and police to stop smuggling and sales, a flow of narcotics will enter to the country.

23) The Committee also  read the documents and statements made by the addicts organizations. The strongest impression is the statement of the interest organization RIO which states that “…… the liberalization of drugs is the opposite of dignity for people fleeing from himself through drugs …… there are still many people who do not experiment with drugs because it is forbidden … “. Many will experiment with drugs if suddenly the use of drugs is decriminalized.

That is why, the Norwegian Committe became convinced that legalization or decriminalization of drugs is not the way to go, and that the Norwegian drug policy is much better than its reputation.