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Norway votes to decriminalise drugs and offer treatment instead of jail time (inews.co.uk)
1214 points by pimeys on Dec 16, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 217 comments

I live in Norway. While I'm happy about this vote, it remains to be seen how it will play out in practice. So far the Norwegian drug policy has been terrible — police searches of homes and cars with questianble probable cause; routinely harassment of drug addicts by police/police policy of going after low hanging fruits to easily improve statistics; and severe penalty for drug-related crimes (> $150 fine for carrying 1 gram of marihuana, as much as 21 years in prison for smuggling marihuana). Norway has a long way to go. The parliment vote is promising, but as for now I'm cautiously optimistic about how it will play out in practice.

I also live in Norway, my SO is a psychologist specialising in addiction, according to her this is a big step in the right direction.

She routinely have patients motivated to quit, who make big progress during treatment, who manage to turn their life around, they've broken contact with the "drug community", they might even have gotten to a point where they can hold a job, and have gotten a job, some might have started a family, they're essentially on the home run.

Then BAM!, out of the blue, the glacially slow moving judicial system calls them to court, and charge them for their past transgressions from ~2 years ago. If they're really unlucky they got caught with 2-3 days (of personal use) worth of drugs - enough to qualify them as a dealer and several years in jail.

Nothing ruins a successful treatment and break from your past like getting knocked into jail with your old pals for a few years. It happens again and again and again, it's GIANT waste of resources.

Australian here. I was charged with two counts of Traffic Controlled Drug and one count of Possess Prescription Drug without lawful excuse on the 28th of December 2012. I was carrying only a little bit more that I might typically be in possession of because it was three days before new years eve.

It took two years three months to sort it out in the courts. Fortunately I got referred to a barrister who managed to get the charges dropped. I got all my cash back from the police, that was a pleasant experience.

Point being, in those two years and three months I cleaned myself up, got a job and was ready to buy a house, but still had the charges hanging over me. My god, what a stress.

> it remains to be seen how it will play out in practice

Drug policy reform is extremely difficult to carry out well, mostly due to the social impact it has on both the populace and governing bodies - adjustment doesn't happen immediately and are likely to be bumps in the road. From the sound of the article, it sounds like Norway is headed in the right direction, though it may take everyone a bit to get on the right path. Still, this is already happening elsewhere in the world[1], and I think it will continue to happen more as time goes on.

I don't know many details of Norway's drug policies (nor Portugal's, for that matter), but it makes sense that decriminalization + treatment, when implemented well, will generally far exceed incarceration when it comes to overall effectiveness and impact on reducing drug abuse, crime, and deaths.

I hear people are pretty happy in Norway (compared to the states, at least), but police harassment is never any fun - I hope things improve there.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/dec/05/portugals-radic...

Please, nobody would ever know how difficult it is. The problem is that a century of draconian enforcement has created a MASSIVE private complex that feeds and pays so many people that the interests have rooted in the system.

Don't be fooled, the lack of progress is almost exclusively a product of vested interest in enforcement and this vague intellectual question of "how?"

In Norway it's even worse.

We generally have very few special interests groups, however the narcotics police have formed their own political group that constantly writes for news papers, joins debates and speaks to the politicians, and their agenda is similar to the reefer madness stuff from the US every time someone remotely threatens their jobs (via deregulation / legalisation).

This _is_ a step in the right direction though.

In Finland we have seemingly corrupted narcotic police and their chief is now going to jail for taking bribes, smuggling drugs and hiding huge amounts of money in his backyard. And then we have the non-profits with crazy fanatical leaders writing texts to newspapers about how a single joint destroyed kids life. We have crazy fanatical ideologies about drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

On the other side we have growing wealth gaps and people drinking and combining it with whatever pill is the cheapest on the corner. The government has a monopoly for selling alcohol, which is created to protect the people from the harms of alcohol and on the other hand needs to gain profit and sell more of the product.

Drugs might become a problem for a person, but how the society reacts to them currently is not really helping anybody.

Finland has one of the lowest wealth gaps in EU (or world) and it's hardly a good reason for someone to do drugs.

Yes, there is a lot of moralizing about drugs and alcohol, but it is slowly getting better.

Yes, the head of Helsinki drug police (not a national position) being on trial for such a series of crimes looks ridiculous, but on the other hand, it shows that the system does something when things go bad.

What do you think about the new law that allows police to walk with dogs in any public happening and check the bags of suspicions people for drugs?

Edit: and looking at the queues waiting to get free food is definitely showing that the amount of poor people in the country is going up.

I don't think much of it: the practice was quite normal until recently when an ombudsman made an interpretation which the parliament apparently had not intended. So the parliament made a specific law about it and the old way is resumed. Overall, I think it is quite okay to try to keep drug dealing out of concerts and such.

Food queues turn up if there is free delivery of food. There was certainly much more poverty (I mean poverty of the "difficulty to make end's meet" kind) in times before the current food queues. But there is no longer a social stigma in picking up food from queues, and similarly the last-resort income support is nowadays increasingly treated as a universal basic income, even if the law wasn't intending it so.

The actual problem is that it is increasingly hard to lift oneself up from (relative) poverty through work because the job market eliminates entry-level jobs.

This is nearly as bad as in the U.S., although I assume you probably don't have the same racial component.

Actually I think the U.S. is ahead of Norway here, as cannabis has been decriminalized in several states in the U.S. As to the racial component — Norway is not as racially diverse as the U.S., but if you are black you will be routinely stopped by police and interrogated on the street in Norway. This will not happen if you are white. I know of a university professor from Africa that experiences this several times a year — he has just resigned to the fact.

On a diffrent note, Norway has a huge problem with drug-related deaths: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-07-19/which-european-nati...

Apropos of nothing, but you mentioning that brought up a memory of when I was in Helsinki this summer: I took a taxi back to the airport early in the morning and the taxi driver (a black man) asked me (white) to sit in the front rather than the back, otherwise he would get stopped by police. Not necessarily something I was expecting in Norway. But what do I know?

One reason why they might have asked you this is because working for services like Uber is illegal in Finland (Helsinki is not in Norway), and they might suspect that a darker skinned person driving with a white person at the back is more likely to be an Uber driver (Uber drivers are predominantly from an immigrant background, from personal experience).

Still racial profiling, but maybe not as bad as being stopped for "only" being black.

>they might suspect that a darker skinned person driving with a white person at the back is more likely to be an Uber driver

I think in Finland official taxis say "TAKSI" and have a yellow sign on the roof, so maybe they might suspect any unofficial-looking car with a driver in the front and the sole passenger in the back as being an Uber.

> working for services like Uber is illegal in Finland (Helsinki is not in Norway)

Not really true. However, you do need a taxi license, and many/most Uber drivers didn't have one.

That does not ring true. I live near Helsinki, use taxis quite a lot - mostly to and from airport but also elsewhere - and half the drivers are dark-skinned people. They are never stopped although I always sit at the back.

If you're an Uber driver (unlicensed taxi) then things are different. A driver in front (of any colour) and a single adult passenger at the back, starting off from the airport in an Uber-looking car, might get attention.

Was it a licensed Taxi or an Uber? Or some unlicensed driver at the airport?

A licensed Taxi is very unlikely to be stopped by the police in Helsinki, and lots of taxi drivers are black or other immigrant background.

There is something odd in this story, doesn't sound at all typical.

Not that Helsinki is in Finland, apparently :-)

It is standard for taxi passengers to sit in the front in Finland, though.

Though it seems to me that especially in Helsinki the trend is shifting. A couple of time I've gotten momentarily confused looks there when I've sat on the front passenger seat.

I don't think we have any states where it has been decriminalized. It has been outright legalized in some, but most still have it illegal - and possession often results in prison time, not just fines. Of course, it's still illegal on the federal level regardless of the state, and you can run afoul of that (e.g. at an internal border control checkpoint).

I live in Colorado. Marijuana was slowly decriminalized before it was legalized.

A handful of states stopped putting minorities into prison for marijuana. It's hard to argue that any of the states have applied a reasonable standard of justice for anyone convicted of these crimes prior to the laws changing.

The distinction is a legal one, but it's important if you're applying for a job or an apartment. A traffic ticket has very different ramifications than a criminal sentence.

I live in a legal state, and I honestly can't imagine living someplace that still prohibits marijuana use by adults... I use edible marijuana pretty frequently while cooking and reading. As far as I can tell, it's just nice and improves my quality of life, like good food or good sex.

The very idea of criminalization is so asinine that it's hard to wrap my head around.

Not quite. North Carolina for instance has decriminalized carrying small amounts of Cannabis.

The map in this article is particularly illuminating: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decriminalization_of_non-medic...

Illinois decriminalized possession of up to 10 grams last year.

I can't speak for all of California, but it's effectively decriminalized in San Francisco, and has been for a decade at least.

Alaska for decades.

You can still receive jail time for possession of e.g. 1g of marijuana for personal use in states where it is decriminalized. "Decriminalized" just means it's a misdemeanor and not a felony under certain conditions and in certain quantities, but misdemeanors still carry significant penalties.

In New York State, “decriminalized” marijuana means the offense is a violation, which is less than a misdemeanor. It’s essentially a $100 ticket for simple possession under 28g.

Anecdotally, I’ve found it quite easy to get these cases dismissed. They frequently don’t test the alleged substance because it’s too expensive for the state. So, the judge ends up dismissing the case due to lack of evidence.

In my state it means a misdemeanor. Also anecdotally, it's not hard to get these cases dismissed here through a combination of a clean drug test and preemptive community service hours. But I have still spent time in jail for a case that was ultimately dismissed and the state law allows for significant (relative to the 'crime') prison sentences for simple possession, even though we are considered "decriminalized".

why, if the test comes out positive, surely the plaintiff has to pay ..?

The plaintiff is the state. The defendant should not be held responsible for financial costs incurred by the state while gathering evidence.

s/plaintiff/defendant/g # my bad

The racial component in the US is such a hot-button issue not just because of the degree of racial discrimination, but also because the size and non-immigrant status of the black minority here.

You do realize the current administration is actively trying to go after state governments that have decriminalized marijuana, right?


> Actually I think the U.S. is ahead of Norway here, as cannabis has been decriminalized in several states in the U.S.

Most states are still as bad as or worse than Norway, though. In terms of laws and regulation, US states are more like separate nations in many ways.

> US states are more like separate nations in many ways.

Indeed, though less so than before the civil war.

Thus Brexit is an interesting test case for seeing if EU is able to "disassemble" without bloodshed.

That's going to depend entirely on the Irish border solution. I'm not sure it's a great test case given the total incompetence of how it's being handled.

This sounds like the right thing to do. But in practice, a lot is going to depend on how the legal system deals with "dealers".

When you say "drug dealer", most people think of some gangster type who makes a lot of money by exploiting poor addicts. But that's not the reality.

If you use drugs, and you don't have a job, selling a bit of the stuff is the most obvious way to make some money. So a lot of drug users will become drug dealers as well. I think that these people need help as well; putting them in jail doesn't help anyone.

But it can get even worse. Imagine that you are a drug user, and you need some drugs. So you ask a friend, who is also a drug user, if they have any left, and if you can buy it off of them. Boom, they're a dealer now as well.

So in reality, a large part of drug users are going to be drug dealers as well. If you decriminalise drug use, but keep prison sentences for dealing, a lot will hinge on the question what makes someone a dealer.

This seems like an error in the law if there is no minimum quantity or any other kind of test for who is a "dealer". I sold some speakers once but that doesn't make me a Hi-fi dealer.

The error in the law would be if selling some speakers once is okay, but opening a hi-fi store is punishable with jail time.

If we agree that consuming drugs is fine, then why are we simultaneously trying to put dealers and distributors in jail? What’s the point?

Please read the article or read up on the Portuguese model, it makes points like this clear. Using drugs is not considered fine, it is still subject to psychological evaluations, warnings and escalating sanctions such as fines and passport confiscation aside from medical treatment. It’s treated as an administrative infraction, like a speeding ticket or a parking fine and not a criminal offence.

The other aspect not mentioned in the article is that in Portugal dealing in ‘paraphrenalia’ is not an offence. This is important because it allows charities and clinics to provide clean needles, dramatically reducing drug related infections. Aside from these policies greatly reducing drug use overall, it’s this change that is responsible for a magnified effect in reducing the infection and death rates.

At least around where I am, the police tend to threaten these people with extreme penalties when arrested in order to get them to give up their supplier in exchange for a much lighter sentence. So decriminalizing small time dealing will make it more difficult to prosecute the people who really are the gangster types.

I am very concerned about stronger penalties that are there to coerce someone to do something rather than be proportional as a deterrent or whatever else the legal system is supposed to do in a given country. It puts you too much at the mercy of the police. This reminds me of the strategy prosecutors are using in the US where they are piling insane amounts of charges on to force the supposed criminal to take a plea bargain instead of going to court.

To me that's a quick path to where legal systems go to die.

Remember Aaron Swartz. Prosecutor Carmen Ortiz threw so much preposterous book at him that he cracked and killed himself. An indelible shame and loss for all

If drugs are legalized—truly legalized—the need for “gangster types” diminishes and all that is left is supply and demand.

This is true, and I think there are a lot of ways in which that would improve things. Has anyone really taken it this far though?

The US has: there were lots of criminal types in the alcohol business in the 1930s. Now there are virtually gone.

Seriously, without prohibition in the first place, so much of the police/industrial complex never would have come into existence.

You’re conflating. It’s “military/industrial complex” as Eisenhower called it. You’re probably referring to the “prison industrial complex”, the influential lobby of private prisons.

While this is true, it's not good enough to just assume that drugs are the same as alcohol because alcohol is a drug.

That's true. Eg alcohol inebriation tends to make a sizeable part of the population violent; pot eg just makes people hungry and lethargic. And from what I heard cocaine is basically sociopathy as a powder. Etc.

The problem of organised crime has more to do with legal prohibition of a good that enjoys widespread demand, than with that good being a drug. See gambling or prostitution or corruption in construction. I remember some article about 'sand mining mafias' in India. Sand!

To add a different perspective: the only reason gangster types are in this business is exactly because it is criminalized.

Gangsters aren't particularly good at doing business, and will be out-competed by professional outfits when the law allows.

> If you use drugs, and you don't have a job, selling a bit of the stuff is the most obvious way to make some money.

That's interesting - it points to something special about drugs. Most people I know without jobs eat, but they're not inclined to become grocers to make a little on the side. It seems there's some scarcity introduced because dealing is illegal. The unintended consequence of legalization might be the elimination of the casual dealer.

I don't know about this. Weed is semi-legal in The Netherlands but people who deal "on the side" are still very common.

Are the "on the side" dealers selling the same stuff as the semi-legal dealers? Why does anyone not use the semi-legal dealers?

Probably something to do with the transaction costs and margins that can be achieved.

I don't think I've ever met a drug dealer who wasn't getting high off their own supply (whatever supply that might be). Most dealers are basically dealing to pay for their own habits.

Bottom line, deaths from overdose:

Drugs criminalized, USA:

185 deaths/million people/year

Not criminalized, treatment focused Portugal:

6 deaths/million people/year


Drugs highly criminalized, South Korea: 0.1 deaths/million people/year [1]

This is a much more complicated issue than numbers from two countries could possibly tell.

[1] http://www.unodc.org/wdr2017/field/3.1_Mortality.xls

According to wikipedia use of drugs are a lesser offense in south korea, so if that is correct it is not highly criminalized.

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_South_Korea

Supply of drugs has also historically been limited according to the following article that goes over drugs in South Korea at length:

- https://www.koreaexpose.com/drugs-south-korea-a-silent-crisi...

Singapore then. They're still hanging people for possession...

Singapore has also upheld imprisoning people for homosexual acts in recent years. It is not a society that tolerates behaviour outside the mainstream.

The death penalty is for dealing, not for users.

The quantities listed in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_Singapor... seems higher than what a user would have on them.

Possession of large enough a quantity means you're automatically considered a dealer, and we're not talking huge quantities either: 30g (1 oz) of cocaine translates to a mandatory death penalty. This extends to things like having the key to a locker containing drugs.

Yes. And I wish they would move to a policy of legalise-and-regulate-(-and-tax).

But at least they manage to make their prohibition policy actually effective: drugs are hard to get, and not a lot of people are actually behind bars or executed for trading.

(Compare with eg the US which incarcerates a lot of people, but the drug trade goes on regardless.)

One point that may be significant is that South Korea has only one land border, and it is heavily guarded.

Ok consider Iceland. Literally an island, very high overdose rate.

Well, having a 9 month winter will make anyone take drugs.

That rather supports gok’s claim that it’s more complicated than just punishment severity.

Vitamin D should be the first.

Per capita?

Anyway, I just wanted to point out that there are many variables to consider, and a lot of them are less obvious, or less quantifiable.

I never thought of it this way but basically South Korean is an island effectively. Practically no one travels in/out of South Korea except by flying in/out.

how is this significant in any way to the topic of drug-related deaths?

It relates to how drugs get into the country, and what drugs get into the country. In the case of the U.S., the Mexico border is a huge problem. It probably didn't help that the CIA was selling automatic weapons to the cartels, either...

It's much easier to catch someone smuggling drugs through an airport than it is stopping someone from walking over an imaginary line that's thousands of kilometres long. So less drugs in circulation, which would have an effect on death rates.

Koreans have boats, and a very large coastline...

Sure, but their closest marine neighbor is also very hard on drugs and drugs dealers (Japan).

Given that drugs are grown/cultivated elsewhere and smuggled in, and smuggling them is close to a $100 billion per year business, very.

First thing I‘d ask is if South Korea had a high amount of users and addicts and deaths ever in the past. I could imagine US and Portugal are more similar to each other.

SK also has one of the highest suicide rates (2nd) in the world. There's a confounding effect between people who wants release that can get drugs for it and those that can't which results in suicide.

I feel like in that culture, the drug of choice is alcohol. A lot of people forget that alcohol is a drug, just one that most human societies have deemed acceptable.

According to Wikipedia [1] it is on the 10th place, not 2nd.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_r...

It’s great to see Norway do the rational think and replicate the success of the Portuguese system instead of the catastrophe of the American.

I think our society would greatly improve from more mercy, and I miss that from growing up in Norway.

It seems many in the USA instead of trying something different when their opinions fail double down, because they believe conviction and force will somehow defeat actual evidence that it is just a terrible idea.

It's been a long slog in Norway too, though, and there's still substantial pressure from groups that peddle outright lies about the dangers of drugs. Norway has long had some of the worst drug policies in Europe, in part because there is significant split in Norway between on one hand a focus on a human justice system, and on the other hand a puritan lutheran and evangelical community that sees all drugs (including alcohol) as a moral failing.

So punishments and pressure on police to take drug related crime extra seriously has for a long time been disproportionate to the impacts them have relative to other crimes.

Alcohol culture still needs some improvement though, lots of unhealthy aspects. Every-weekend binge drinking, unable-to-express-unless-drunk, drunkeness-absolves-responsibility relatively common.

Christians are the ones most preaching moderation, which might continue to attract some youngsters who see all the ridiculous things going on re alcohol and don't want to be part. Can be hard to explain sometimes that one does not drink for reasons other than religious or medical - the concept is a bit foreign.

Thankfully the puritans are loosing foothold day by day. In 30 years their influence will be seriously reduced. Most kids born today won't even have grandparents that are personally religious and practicing.

Yeah unfortunately here we use the drug laws to effectively reintroduce slavery. Its legal under US law to use prisoners as slave labor. As we used to say in the 90s people in the 'hood don't have planes. By the 2000s rather than the CIA cocaine and heroin smuggling we saw Wallstreet move in and the rise of the Oxycontin era where Wallstreet shareholders have been directly benefiting both from selling opiates to the masses and then from their slave labor when they land in a private prison after converting from oxy to heroin addiction.

Not true at all. The amount of goods produced by people in jail is a negligible part of the economy. Prisoners do work, sure, but that's to pass the time.

We imprison far too many people in the US for minor drug offences, but it's definitely not in order to reintroduce slavery...

I don't think anyone is saying that prison labor is in any way reintroducing the economic impact of 18-19th century slave trade. But, as a country, the US:

1) Incarcerates people at a higher rate than any country besides Seychelles

2) Abolished slavery for all persons except prisoners:

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted..."

Between local, state, and federal prisons, we're looking at roughly 500,000 imprisoned for drug-related offenses[1]. Yes, the labor of these people is a trivial portion of the overall economy, but it still produces huge profit for those running the show: CoreCivic has a market cap of ~$2.6 billion. They exist to extract value from the lives and labors of the people who their institutions keep under lock and key.

There is a direct incentive for these corporations to increase the number of prisoners in the system, and they leverage their power to pursue that incentive, lobbying for and even drafting legislation that enforces three strike and mandatory minimum rules.[2] They are actively pushing governments to imprison more people, and profiting from the resulting state sanctioned slavery.

[1] https://static.prisonpolicy.org/images/pie2017.png [2] https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2016/aug/22/study-shows...

>Not true at all. The amount of goods produced by people in jail is a negligible part of the economy.

It's still a hugely profitable business on its own for those involved, so that comparison is kind of beyond the point. Pimps profits also make for "a negligible part of the economy" but their profession is a thing.

>Prisoners do work, sure, but that's to pass the time.

If only.



Prisoners in California are being used as firefighters. It's not an easy or safe job and I'm pretty sure they aren't doing it just to pass time.

A quick search reveals that all of the inmates doing that job are volunteers.

They get to spend time outside prison and interact with people who aren't prisoners or guards. I could imagine volunteering for that if I was a prisoner. That doesn't make using prisoners as cheap labor OK, especially for dangerous jobs, but it doesn't surprise me at all that prisoners would rather do that than sit in a cell.

>A quick search reveals that all of the inmates doing that job are volunteers.

It's easy to make volunteers out of people if:

1) Their living conditions are so bad in your hellish prisons that that most alternatives seem like heaven.

2) you control their living conditions and can make their life hell if you want to "motivate" them to volunteer.

3) A crappy legal system hands them some of the harshest terms in the world in some of the more BS prisons, and having them volunteer for such work can give them more "points" towards getting our earlier.

What I'm getting at is, volunteering for an inmate is not necessarily the same thing as volunteering is for a free man -- or even the same thing as a prisoner in a place without medieval prison conditions and vindictive attitude towards prisoners volunteering.

I'd tend to agree. I mean, if I was locked in a cage first, I'd likely be more willing to agree to something, anything, that gets me out of that cage.

Whether that is good, bad or indifferent is a whole different matter, but I think it is safe to say that it is a thing.

Surely there is no power relation stacked against prisoners that might lead to any suspicion regarding their consent.

If you force people to work for a few cents an hour, that will always be a negligable part of the economy.

I don’t see your logic here. Slaves worked for free and were a huge part of the economy. Wages are not the only part of the equation.

The meterics that account for economic activity will place a very low one on labor with a very low hourly rate.

AFAIK, Slaves would be categorized as capital expense, which is different than labor and would use a different measure for economic output.

Who cares how you classify the expense. They are talking about what percent of goods/services in our economy come from prisoners. It's negligible.

When slavery was a thing It was not negligible. It made up a good portion of the southern economy.

How do you quantify the goods and services that come from prisoners? It's not like they're stamped with (made in prison), but more likely would be marketed as (made in US).

Are you honestly suggesting that a large percentage of goods/services in the US are provided by prisoners or are you just arguing for arguments sake?

I doubt 1 in a million products are made by prisoners.

I was honestly curious how you might quantify that.

Deaths from overdose vastly under-describes the terrible toll of the drug war. Countless millions of Americans are locked in cages and have their lives destroyed by the "justice" system even if they never overdose. Countless millions of children in the US grow up without parents and subsequently end up as broken people, because their parents were locked in cages for drug-related "crimes". And this doesn't consider the trillions of dollars we have squandered as a nation pursuing the "war on drugs", or the severe damage to our freedom as a people we have suffered via the destruction of our civil liberties in the prosecution of this senseless attempt at drug prohibition.

this. I looked up some current polling on drug issues and it blew my mind how backwards most of the USA still seems to be on this issue. [1] I mean at least the desire to legalize marijuana is increasing but on other issues in the "war on drugs" topic, the outlook doesn't look so great.

There are a lot of young dems and republicans that are at also against the current war on drugs - mainly as it pertains to marijuana, but still [2].

Glad to see Norway making headway in the right direction here. Hopefully my countries (Germany and USA) can follow suite at some point, rather sooner than later.

Finally, when will the USA and other countries start using metrics, data, experiment, and testing to drive policy instead of following public opinion or philosophical / moral stances that are based on nothing and which are continuously being invalidated or minimally given ample evidence for optimization by any data allowed to accumulate?

1. http://news.gallup.com/poll/1657/illegal-drugs.aspx 2. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/02/27/63-of-republ...

"The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did." -- John Ehrlichman, who served as domestic policy chief for President Richard Nixon when the administration declared its war on drugs in 1971

I would say that chart is pretty good proof that decriminalizatiin is NOT the biggest driver of reduced overdose deaths. How do i know? Some of the countries on that list have exceeding low deaths, but have no decriminalized drugs at all.

Legality is just one reason. There are many.-

Reason 2: opiates poured into the population via healthcare system for some reason (because pain bad, lobbying good)

Reason 3: People who are drug addicts have universal healthcare, whereas I'm guessing a lot of drug addicts are lacking good insurance in the US. Not the people who have taken overdoses are rejected from the emergency room in the US - but preventive care, free treatment for addiction, regular health checkups etc. are probably less common among addicts where they don't have universal healthcare.

And Japan?

By the same graph, drug deaths are even lower in Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary than in Portugal.

And among the worst offenders are the liberal states of Sweden, Norway, Denmark etc..

So - having extreme anti-drug laws combined with nationalist/patriotic crazy authoritarian government is the policy to go with?

I'm kidding .. but you see that it's hard to look at that chart and make out more than Apples to Oranges.

It's also worth pondering how Eastern Europe has a tiny fraction of the problem that West seems to have, except for Estonia, which seems of the charts. It really is a tricky graph.

You really need to look at trends more than absolute numbers, or you will run into the issue of actually verifying that the numbers are comparable.

E.g. death due to X tends to depend greatly on what the policy is on autopsies and other checks, and whether or not there's any pressure on coroners to speculate about cause of death vs. just pronounce a generic reason.

In Norway for example, an autopsy only happens rarely unless there is a reason to expect foul play, mostly because it's seen as expensive and unnecessary. As a result, a lot of "natural causes" or "heart failure" can obscure more specific causes that will only be recorded if accompanied by e.g. police observations.

Then, even if you do tests, there's the question of how you record deaths where there are multiple possible causes. E.g. you might have heart failure possibly due to a combination of alcohol and other drugs. Depending on your reporting system you might put it down in any number of different ways.

Then on top of this, you have to consider what make people use, not just what potentially make people not use. It could be the differences in legal system, or just that other societal differences makes fewer people predisposed to want to use in the first place.

All of this basically makes it impossible to compare country to country and conclude that changes in a single area such as law enforcement makes a difference.

The reason we look to Portugal is not primarily because it looks good compared to other countries, but because it performs well compared to itself prior to decriminalisation, and because it was a recent change.

>In Norway for example, an autopsy only happens rarely unless there is a reason to expect foul play,

Really? That's interesting. In neighbouring Finland, an autopsy is standard practice whenever the medical cause(s) of death is not completely clear.

Anyway, it's a relevant point that you make about death being caused by multiple factors, and crediting the causes in statistics is a game that can be played.

The issue is that most of the time a cause of death is completely clear, but the full picture is not.

Found that out when my dad died in 2000, and we asked for one - we didn't expect foul play but he'd struggled with alcohol problems in the past and for closure we wanted to understand if he'd gotten back into drinking and that might have been why he died (he had heart problems and were on drugs that would have made combining them with alcohol a likely cause).

The coroners office made it very clear that that since it was clear he died from his heart stopping and there was no immediate reasons to suspect that there were any external factors that'd make a difference to the primary reason of death and no suspicion of foul play, an autopsy was out of the question unless we were prepared to cover the full costs (which were fairly steep).

That he may or may not have taken his heart medicine or may or may not have combined it with alcohol was to them irrelevant as long as it didn't change the main cause and they had no reason to see the distinction as relevant.

If there was doubt about the major cause, such as e.g. if he'd had a head wound or something else that might have indicated another cause, it might have been different.

This might very well also vary from coroners office to coroners office in some countries depending on capacity. This was in Oslo, so would have been one of the busiest areas.

Again, interesting difference. My father died in 1992 and autopsy was mandatory since the heart attack occurred at home (even if he was only declared dead at hospital after I'd done a hard hour of resuscitation). Autopsy was mandatory, my mother was not very happy with that. (This was in rural Finland).

That is indeed an interesting difference. Makes me wonder how uniform that policy is. In our case we were quite annoyed that they wouldn't perform one. Though it was not big enough of a deal for us to want to pay to cover the costs - it was a nagging question, not something that ultimately would have changed anything.

In Poland, drugs were way too expensive to be widespread up until the fall of communism. After that, people were generally more aware of how bad drugs are (AIDS, the overdoses of rockstars etc.), so I’m guessing they were reluctant to even try them out and the drug culture never caught on.

I'd say income - even marijuana is expensive, not to mention the strong drugs - and the availability of decent booze for cheap.

Thank you for updating your comment.

I don't like your bottom line. Tell me how many fewer Portuguese people are affected by the crimes and pressures of druggies, not how many fewer of the criminals themselves have accidents. (one of the replies to that article says that Portuguese drug use fell period, so this is rhetorical)


I hear that word used a lot over here in the UK, usually by people on right of the political spectrum, but the word sounds rather pejorative to me. I presume the people using it mean "users of drugs, excluding alcohol" in order to differentiate themselves from the users of the other drugs.

It's literally a pejorative for low-life drug addicts, there's no subtlety here. Low-life alcoholics get called drunks to basically the same effect.

It is pejorative (as you know). I could've used a pejorative that didn't have 'drug' in it, for all it matters to this thread.

You could have abstaines from using a perjorative. Substance abuse is an issue that can happen to anyone. It would be obviously in bad taste to dehumanize cancer patients - so it baffles me why this is not so for addiction.

I'm conflicted. You've brought me back to something I was thinking. We - americans for sure - judge people not rationally but according to their outward threat to ourselves. I won't deny that anyone can get addicted to a substance, or that it can happen by chance rather than choice. When you go this far to "understand" humans, there's almost no one bad left. When do you stop "understanding" people for their situation and get on with judging them for what they are?

If the underlying motivation for understanding or judging is to figure out what public policy to adopt, then the choice of what to do is simply what works best. If some people are irredeemable and locking them away forever ends up creating the safest and healthiest society for the most people, then judge away. If it turns out that helping people and understanding them where possible works better, do that. Most progress seems to me to originate in moving from the former to the latter, in moving more people out of the "irredeemable" category.

I don't think you have a need to judge anyone unless you are an actual judge. As a private person you could just decide you want to stay away someone and leave it at that. You have no need to dehumanize anyone by private labeling.

And, I think this is confused labeling. Substance abuse alone does not make anyone a danger to you.

So, substance abuse: a) person goes to a daily job, drinks a bottle of wine in the evening, does some coke, goes to sleep. repeats ad infinitum. b) person has a really bad addiction, needs money, so he robs you

I presume your talk about fear and judgement was more about scenario b rather than a, but both are about a person with substance abuse problems. The thing we don't actually like in b) is the stealing, not the substance abuse per se.

You could turn the question around: who has a need for some people to be seen as intrinsically bad, and to what extent do we indulge that urge?

> not rationally but according to their outward threat to ourselves

If we did that, it would be rational, and an improvement. The unfortunate truth is that we tend to judge people for being outsiders, so while alcohol causes much more harm to others than heroin or crack cocaine (citation below), “we drink alcohol so it must be fine”.

Same with terrorists: if the killer is one of “us” they are “a troubled lone wolf”, if the killer is one of “them” then “that just goes to show how nasty they all are”.

Same with child abusers: “stranger danger” is what people worry about, but most documented abuses are committed by close relatives.

(Relative harm: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drug_harmfulness#/media/File...)

How about judging what they do in the context of why they do it, rather than judging them for what they are?

Why this need to judge?

It is particularly odd given a country where such a high proportion claim to be Christian, and perhaps ought to follow the instruction to leave it to their God to judge people.

Portuguese drug use has gone up in fact. But Portugal isn't even a good test case because it's a country that didn't have much of a drug culture to begin with. It's not very helpful to cite it as a useful test case for possible American drug policy, as people have been doing lately.

"Portuguese drug use has gone up in fact."

More people using drugs isn't automatically undesirable, as more people abusing drugs is.

Too often drug use is equated with drug abuse, but it need not be so. It's possible to use drugs and not have them affect your life negatively, or even have them affect your life positively (as in the case of the various psychedelic therapies out there to tread everything from PTSD to depression, using psychedelics to enhance one's creativity or for problem solving, or arguably psychedelic use in sacramental/religious contexts).

Another thing to consider when looking at raw statistics that might show an increase in drug use is that people are more likely to honestly report their drug use if they think they won't be punished for it, and conversely are more likely to lie about it if they thought they might get punished or stigmatized for it. In the case of Portugal, their non-punitive approach increases the odds that people will be more honest about their drug use, so the apparent increase in drug use might be just surveys finally reporting the truth about already-existing drug use. Real drug use there might have stayed the same or even decreased while showing an increase on paper.

On top of what you've all said drug use in Portugal has only gone up if you look at "have you ever in your life, even if only once, used drugs?"

Rates of "past month" and "past year" drug use has decreased. These are more useful measures than some others, such as "lifetime use".

Rates of injecting drug use have decreased.

Drug use in adolescants have decreased.

Rates of harm have decreased dramatically.

>Rates of harm have decreased dramatically.

I question the measurements of harm, which I believe in the Portuguese case is in terms of diseases/hospitalizations/deaths. Everyone knows high-functioning people who have alcohol or drug problems, who will probably not show up in such measurements of harmful use, but who nonetheless suffer personal and family problems due to their habit.

Also, this article, though a little dated, seems to contradict your claim about drug use in the last 12 months.


>While people reporting drug use over the course of their lifetime has gone up, somewhat significantly in the last decade in Portugal, people reporting drug use over the last 12 months of their lives has actually gone up only slightly.

And again, Portugal didn't have much of a drug culture to begin with. Where drug use is a much greater and ubiquitous cultural phenomenon, like in the US, it is very plausible that decriminalization would lead to significantly increased use.

> https://www.npr.org/2011/01/20/133086356/Mixed-Results-For-P....

There's not much point continuing the conversation if you're going to cite 6 year old radio interviews between journalists who don't bother to cite their sources.

Suppose it does - why does it matter? Why should society be in the business of policing what people put into their bodies, in their own homes?

The argument from freedom of agency isn't very convincing when drug addiction deprives you of free will itself.

Not all drug users are addicted (in fact, given the popularity of marijuana, I would say that the vast majority aren't). Indeed, many drugs on the prohibited lists don't cause addiction - or at least anymore so than, say, fast food.

This has been suggested by the liberals (Venstre), socialists and the greens for some time now, what made this happen to a large extent was that a number of younger conservatives have spent lots of time lobbying for a new stance in their party (Høyre).

With any luck, the next goal will be legalisation and most drugs being sold by either pharmacies or the state-run stores (Vinmonopolet) which already have a monopoly on selling alcohol at over 4.75% by volume.

Replacing the dirty drugs addicts currently consume with pharmaceutical-quality stuff will work wonders for our drug-related deaths statistics - not to mention the improvement in quality of life for those affected and the hit the current criminal suppliers will take.

It would be an interesting experiment to extend Vinmonopolet since the infrastructure and culture (restricted opening hours, no advertisements, etc - at least that's how it works in Sweden) around it already exists. This would be different to other countries where you probably would have to trust for-profit actors to handle it well, or implement a monopoly from scratch.

That probably depends on how much space it needs at the end and whether or not you allow things like coffee shops (after all, we are talking full legalisation).

If they just need a counter, I'm guessing Vinmonopolet will do just fine even though their stores tend to be small with well-used space. If they allow for coffee shops/bars, it might be split much like alcohol: Weaker or set strength pre-rolled joints available at grocery stores much like cigarettes and beer and unrolled pot/hash at the liquor stores.

It's worth noting that Høyre is not just conservative but "value conservative", verdikonservativ in Norwegian. The basic is to not mess with things that works, but replace what doesn't.

Being politicians they do not follow this at all times, but they are quite far from your typical right wing party elsewhere.

In this case, I hope they follow Venstres lead in this matter and just legalises it. Venstre (Left) is not really a left wing party either, they just entered the government with Høyre and Fremskrittspartiet (Progress party), the party most to the right of the ones in parliament.

This proposition is also supported by SV (Sosialist Left Party), one of the most left wing parties in the parliament but not by the workers party (AP) nor the christians or the farmers.

I've been quite (pleasantly) surprised that the socialists have supported this as when I was still living in Norway, the younger socialists were all rabidly anti-drugs.

As a reminder, decriminalization is not the same thing as legalization. This distinction seems to get lost in these kinds of discussions. Decriminalization is an approach for countries that see drug abuse as a serious problem that needs to be managed as well as possible. It is not a solution for people who regard recreational drug use as a civil liberties issue.

It's not the same, but it's the first step. They probably thought the general public will perceive it better than going straight with legalization.

Or they see drug addicts as health care issue, not criminals. Portugal has decriminalised more than a decade ago and they don't seem to turn to legalisation any time soon?

Motivations can be very different, as you say, drug addicts need help not jail time. Norway seems to me as a progressive nation, I hope they are on the right path.

What is "the right path" though? Some people would say legalisation is the only path and other people, while supporting decriminalisation, wouldn't ever support legalising and promoting a health issue.

Knowing Nordic history with alcohol, I'd say they're on the right path to treat their addicts and keep drugs at bay.

Good, now the rest of the world needs to adopt this model. I understand some of the contempt towards drug addicts, but at the end of the day these people are sick in some way. We (Americans, and much of the world) have spent years demonizing anyone involved in drugs, and it has not turned out well in any measurable way.

If you want a healthy society, help society get healthy.

As a Norwegian with extensive personal experience with the drug community (both from my parents generation in the 60's/70's and from the millenial generation), I just want to say that I really don't agree with the victimization of these people. Most of them are completely to blame for their own poor lifestyle choices and should be made to take personal responsibility for the outcome. I certainly hope these political changes don't usher in a new period of increased drug use, or somehow lead to an increased burden of undeserving youth abusing the welfare system. But that is what I fear.

I think it's interesting that you fear a hypothetical future of "undeserving youth abusing the welfare system" more than the current reality of "undeserving youth not getting the help they need and dying in the streets". You might wanna double-check your math on that value system you're using.

Norway already has very generous social welfare programs, and nobody who is willing to look for help is dying in the streets. The notion of undeserving youth abusing the welfare system is also far from hypothetical.

Consider: I hold university degrees in two STEM fields and earn a decent salary in the private sector. My wife is currently finishing up her education and is receiving a very basic student loan/scholarship. We have two young children to support.

However, my friend and his girlfriend, who were out of work this year, were receiving more in government welfare put together than I was getting paid after tax, and they don't even have children. It frustrates me that the government is taking my hard earned and much needed money and giving it to my lazy friend, who uses it to gamble and buy useless luxury goods. And I know several other examples of people in my age group who complain to their doctor about being "depressed", so they can start living on welfare. In my eyes, these people are undeserving, and a symptom of a broken system.

FYI here in Spain you can possess drugs at your home - any illegal substance - because it is not illegal. You can't deal drugs nor carry them along with you on the street. You can grow for instance, as well, marijuana if it is for your own consumption. IMHO it's a pretty nice spot although people claim for a legal framework to grow weed as in some states of US or other countries.

Yes. Actually, as far as you do not consume them publicly or carry them with aim of distributing them (what is called "personal use"), they are not illegal.

I think we are at a good middle spot. There are some problems in both end of the society spectrum but as far as I know deaths by overdose are not as large as they used to be.

AFAIK, it's actually illegal to carry them in any public space, even if it's for personal consumption.

There are also some other points where I think the law/jurisprudence can be improved (e.g. harm reduction supplies such as accurate scales can be considered as evidence of trafficking), but still, overall the law doesn't impose excessive penalties on drug users, and of course is better than most other countries in the world.

What if a person has no addiction but just enjoys a joint (or even some cocaine) on occasion, i.e. like other people can enjoy a beer or two at times without being alcoholics? Are they still going to force them through treatment or what?

When we do definitively roll back the fraudulent catastrophe that has been the multi-decade international War on Drugs, could we lock up some of its proponents? Punitive measures are almost always risible policy, but it might be fun to have just a few years' worth of payback.

> could we lock up some of its proponents?

For breaking what law? There are good reasons we make it tough to arrest politicians for their political decisions.

I would have thought you could give my very serious policy proposal some slightly more considered analysis.

Uh, generally locking people up just for doing politics is considered a malady - the term "political prisoner" never sounds great.

I'm looking forward to your detailed response to my upcoming policy white paper entitled "Retrospective prison sentences for War on Drug Proponents: recommending another risible policy measure"

It is inane to posit future, unknown counter arguments to a present, cogent one.

Such a Modest Proposal. So much angst.

He was using sarcasm.

I would support the death penalty for the current perpetrators of this mass crime against humanity. US law, however, does not allow such retroactive application of the law for many good reasons. The perpetrators should be tried in international court like the Nazis were. In the end, let's not forget that their goals were essentially the same.

This is good. Not nearly enough but good.

Certain things - MDMA, LSD, GHB - should be legal and regulated. They are all things that have the potential to make lives of many people significantly better. They certainly made mine better.

Drugs should be manufactured in a reliable way, researched, and educated about.

Wait, GHB? Are we talking about the liquid that can be either a solvent GBL or cooked with baking soda to neutralize it to GHB and make it less dangerous?

Two millilitres too much of GBL and you pass out, a bit more with GHB. Of course if you can keep it in control, you can have lots of fun. But I wouldn't list it with MDMA and LSD, which are tremendously more safe than GHB.

Ok. Lets take a look at how this would be administered legally.

I'm going to assume they'll have measured doses with the precision of a prescription drug. It'll probably be cut with some food-grade and safe substance to make it easier to measure as an alternative. If dosage is dependent on body mass, the store employee measures this before dispensing your dose. There is a strict limit on the number of doses a person can safely buy.

There needs to be somebody with a pipette dosing the right amount, keeping track of the time that you don't take the next dose in less than an hour and guards to prevent you from drinking alcohol. Or we have lots of naked people climbing to the trees, fainted or dead.

We've seen this in the Berlin gay community. People don't know how to dose GBL, almost nobody knows how to cook GHB. It's common to have an ambulance coming to the clubs every weekend to pick up another overdose.

GHB feels like a better alcohol when done right, but it is notoriously hard to dose right. You might not feel anything after 45 minutes of the first dose, drink more and pass out.

That'd be basically what I'd push for - someone with a pipette dosing the right amount. One only gets their dose with ID from a licensed administrator, who would also know how to do all the prep safely. Plus we could do all the education stuff - informing folks about not feeling it for a time.

Then again, if it proves to be too dangerous in legal setting, perhaps we could work on researching a safer alternative with similar effects.

How can you know which drugs do and don’t make people’s lives better?

There’s so much misinformation around this topic, I really have no idea whether cocaine is actually a drug that can be used to benefit, Aleister Crowley certainly claimed so, or meth, or who knows.

A lot of drugs are in both categories. On that note, it really isn't different from alcohol, coffee, or gambling. Most folks just use them to relax sometimes, so mostly benefit.

On the crowley note: My time spent in occult circles tells me something similar. Some folks benefit, some folks don't and it has just as much to do with their particular slant on Thelema or other path as it does with their personality and reaction. Though I will say LSD, shrooms, DMT, pot, tobacco and alcohol seem to be the more common "helpers".

If it makes my life better and I know a few people who said that it also makes their lifes better - then surely it makes someone else's life better.

Now you could argue that it may also make someone else's life better, but we can't yet make any official research on the topic due to the legal framework against drugs.

On the misinformation clause - I can't say there's much misinformation on the dosages and expected effects on the hard reduction websites. They do their job well.

It's really pretty simple: you let people figure this out.

The kind of stuff that deserves to be regulated, is the stuff that has known health issues (including strong physical addiction, as e.g. opiates do).

93. DE MEDICINIS SECUNDUM QUATTUOR ELEMENTA. (On the Chemical Agents According to the Four Elements) Concerning the Use of chemical Agents, and be mindful that thou abuse them not, learn that the Sacrament itself relateth to Spirit, and the Four Elements balanced thereunder in its Perfection. So also thy Lion himself hath a fourfold Menstruum for his Serpents. Now to Fire belong Cocaine, which fortifieth the Will, loosing him from bodily Fatigue, Morphine, which purifieth the Mind, making the Thought safe, and slow, and single, Heroin which partaketh as it seemeth, of he Nature of these twain aforesaid albeit in Degree less notable than either of them, and Alcohol, which is Food, that is, Fuel, for the whole Man. To Water, attribute Hashish and Mescal, for they make Images, and they open the hidden Springs of Pleasure and of Beauty. Morphine, for its Ease, hath also part in Water. Air ruleth Ethyl Oxide, for it is as a Sword, dividing asunder ever Part of thee, making easy the Way of Analysis, so that thou comest to learn thyself of what Elements thou art compact. Lastly, of the Nature of Earth are the direct Hypnotics, which operate by Repose, and restore thy Strength by laying thee as a Child in the Arms of the Great Mother, I say rather of Her material and physiological Vicegerent.

94. DE VIRTUTE EXPERIMENTIAE IN HOC ARTE. (On the Virtue of Experience in this Art) Not Sleep, not Rest, not Contentment are of the Will of the Hero, but these Things he hateth, and consenteth to enjoy them only with Same of his weak Nature. But he will analyse himself without Pity, and he will do all Things soever that may free and fortify his Mind and Will. Know that the Technick of the Right Use of this Magick with Poisons is subtle; and since the Nature of every Man differeth from that of his Fellow, there entereth Idiosyncrasy, and thine Experience shall be thy Master in this Art. Heed also this Word following: The Right Use of these Agents is to gain a Knowledge preliminary of thine own Powers, and of High States, so that thou goest not altogether blindly and without Aim in thy Quest, ignorant of the Ways of thine own inner Being. Also, thou must work always for a definite End, never for Pleasure or for Relaxation, except thy wilt, as a good Knight is sworn to do. And thou being Hero and Magician art in Peril of abusing the fiery Agents only, not those of Earth, Air or Water; because these do really work with thee in Purity, making thee wholly what thou wouldst be, an Engine indefatigable, a Mind clear, calm, and concentrated, and a Heart fierce aglow.

>“It is important to emphasise that we do not legalise cannabis and other drugs, but we decriminalise.

>“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.”

In relative terms, this is progress. The question is, how will they treat the "ill" with their cannabis "substance abuse problems"? One can only marvel at all the overdose deaths they'll be racing to prevent.

This is good news, but somewhat incorrect. There hasn't been an official vote, rather an agreement that has been reached among a majority of the members of parliament, in regard to the budget planing for the next 4 years. The fact that this agreement involves parties from the far left, to the centrum-right is quite unique and promising. The fact that they did this in a very public and bold way is also a good sign. This would have been unthinkable just 2-3 years ago.

(I live in Norway, and follow the drug policy closely.)

A group called EmmaSofia [0] in Norway, which I understand to analogous to MAPS [1] in the US, did an AMA on Reddit [2] recently regarding sentencing guidelines related to an LSD arrest. It seems like things are changing for the better, though I really should not even pretend to have a grasp on Norwegian politics.

> "The short story is this: Henrik got his apartment raided by police do to a confiscation of LSD in a mail order that they were able to link to him. The police originally wanted a 5 month prison sentence, but through three court instances we managed to present enough evidence to convince the court to reduce precedence for LSD-related cases quite substantially. The Supreme Court decided on 45 days of community service."

[0]: http://www.emmasofia.org/

[1]: http://www.maps.org

[2]: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/7cnqvv/we_are_emmasof...


When a person is found in possession of a small amount of drugs, the drugs are confiscated and the person is interviewed by a psychiatrist, a social worker and a lawyer. Following this, a number of sanctions can be put in place such as a ban on visiting certain places, a foreign travel ban and a small fine, in line with the country’s minimum wage.

Decriminalizing is silly without also giving access to legally buy the product.

Regulated legalization gets rid of the criminals.

Treating drug use as a medical problem in need of treatment is not necessarily an improvement over treating it as a crime. When we treat it as a crime there are sentencing guidelines. Yes, the guidelines we have now, at least in the US, are draconian, but we could have less draconian guidelines without medicalization.

When we medicalize drug use, the guidelines disappear. People who are involuntarily committed to mental institutions arent prescribed dates for release, they can remain institutionalized for life. If we go down the path of medicalization, we might see some drug users forced into rehab, and then into the equivalent of parole where they return to society but are administered mandatory drug tests periodically. And then back into rehab, cycling forever.

I don't want to be too alarmist. Portugal's been doing this for a while, and I haven't heard of anything like this happening. But drugs like heroin and cannabis were illegal in the United States for decades before the war on drugs started. All it takes to get from current Portugal to my hypothetical scenario is for the political stars to align and suddenly we're calling for a revamp of the drug rehabilitation institutions to have a lower relapse rate, and now we're on the road to life sentences for heroin users. And it's harder to convince people that it's wrong because now we're helping them, not punishing.

Absurd: this will destroy the economy. Who is worrying about the fate of prison guards, policemen, the bribes and government contracts? We need to invent more additions, offenses, and draconian punishments, not fewer.

If we get rid of drug crimes our only hope is to ramp up the terrorism fears.

Jail Time is in essence rehab without the professional helthia - wellbeing and unrestrict to unsupervised visits, access to learning etc, should be a part of every rehabilitation/Incarceration centre, be it the first step and last for a drug user or a statuatory release programme for prisoners.

This is a joke post right? Very funny. Drugs are rife in prisons and institutions, they’re massive concentrated drug dens.

Norway relies on a "restorative justice" system which aims to repair the harm caused by crime rather than punish people. Drugs are not that accessible, I speak from experience. Drug addiction is not a crime, punishing an addict is. I took the time to talk to inmates and hear their stories. Every ones got a story, listen carefully and you may find empathy in the strangest of places and if not at least an understanding.

As someone who spent many years in the United States (Arizona) Prison system, this is a great step forward. Although it still won't stop drug users from committing crimes to get their next fix.

"it still won't stop drug users from committing crimes to get their next fix"

Just subsidize the cost of drugs for those that can't afford them, and problem solved.

A fraction of Trump's tax cut should do the job.

It won't, but then again - petty crime is not a necessary consequence of an excessive drug habit; it is a consequence of drugs being illegal and the associated cost of obtaining drugs of dubious quality.

We can greatly reduce drug-induced petty crime by legalising (most) drugs - some will call that a surrender; I won't.

We so need to acknowledge that drugs won the war on drugs and get on with sensible policy beyond declaring war on nouns, abstract or otherwise.

War on nouns? Like in Steve Yegge’s Execution in the Kingdom of Nouns?


nah, java style verbing any and every noun is something else.

We war on:

we need to verb the noun war in the sense that, 'the president "warred on" ...' Meaning a stupid policy was followed that generally left everyone one vastly worse off except a bunch of high priced consultants.

"warred on" should have the same general meaning as "shat on their own desk"

How powerful and profitable is the prison industry in Norway?

Government run, and focused on rehabilitation and not punishment. Often featured here on HN, actually.

I'm not sure but I think privately run prisons are only a thing in the UK and US (at least among developed countries). Happy to be corrected here.

In India selling, not consumption is a crime.

Here's the thing about decriminalizing drugs in a wealthy Western nation: you have to address the supply side too. Which means raising hemp, coca, poppies etc on Western farms run under Western regulations. Because boosting demand in the West while knowing the conditions under which the drugs are produced, is extremely unethical. Other than that, I have no issue with it.

Please read the article or read up on the Portuguese model. Dealing in drugs is still illegal. This has nothing whatever to do with legalising the trade in drugs.

Using them is decriminalised, which among other things enables medical professionals to help drug users without risking prosecution for aiding and abetting, and helps break the cycle of prison and criminal records that trap drug users in their behaviour pattern.

In other words, the same problems we have with normal plant-based prescription drugs, food, electronics, and so on. I suspect that when everything is legal in both the producing and consuming nation, we'll be able to have the same sort of progress that we have with other legal products because it'll be out in the open.

I don't have a source right now, but I remember reading that drug use in total went down in Portugal after decriminalisation. Probably due to people having better access to help and therefore better chance of kicking the habit

The war on drugs is an EPIC faulted by any measure. It’s almost criminal in itself. Addiction is a health issue NOT a brutal police force issue.

End the war on drugs. Stop tearing families apart for non violent offenders and victimless crimes.

Dissolve the DEA. Return the money to the tax payers. Lower taxes.

Stop the savagery. Portugal and now Norway. Hopefully the sane nations continue to grow.

people will agree with any sanction the state has for a particular action whether it is summary execution for a furtive movement, or merely being put on a list

so this is a good move from the parliament to preserve compatibility of offenders with enlightened society

Norwegian islamic republic, with half of nation on drugs, without terrestrial broadcasting and without cash, easy to manipulate:D Fuck neoliberals.

Many of your comments, like this one, violate the guidelines. Please read them and don't post like this again.


Looks like you lost your way mate. This is HackerNews, not /pol/.


But where will Norway source their compulsory, unpaid labor if not from private prisons clogged with drug war causalities?

We never did that in the first place :-)

I read it as snark directed at the U.S., not Norway.

Might be, but it could be read to mean that we already do that.

wait till they outlaw bitcoin. prisons will fill up again.

Except how do you prove someone owns bitcoin?

same way they prove someone is downloading and possessing copyrighted content.

I don't think you understand how bockchains work.

I don't have to have anything physical or digital to control coins on the blockchain I just need to have a way of accessing my private/public keys.

One example would be a brain wallet, nothing but a phrase in my memory.

something done 16 years ago already in Portugal

So we should just not report on it then? What's your point?

my point is a simple observation

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