Hard Swedish drug policy stands firm – others waver

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Sweden’s drug laws belongs to the Western world’s most repressive. Imprisonment is on the punishment scale for both those who have drugs in their pockets and in their bodies, and new penalties are on the way. The tough pinches should act as a deterrent and be seen as the path to a drug-free society. But according to the Crime Prevention Council, drugs are flowing like never before – and in recent years, more people have died of overdoses in Sweden than in any other country in the EU. Researchers, authorities and debaters of varying political colors have in recent years called for a thorough investigation of the criminalization of the own mill, a stone that has been left untouched since the legislation was added in 1988. They want answers to what effects the policy has had, but have so far fallen on deaf ears. one specifically to leave out the issue of criminalisation. The then Minister of Justice Morgan Johansson, who in 2002 promised a drug-free Sweden within ten years, equated an investigation into the issue with encouraging people to take drugs. The current government has chosen the same line.In other countries former prohibitionists draw the opposite conclusion. Fewer and fewer believe that the war against drugs can be won, and the view of drugs as an inescapable part of every society is gaining ground. Harm minimization is highlighted as a better strategy than deterrence, help as more humane than punishment. In 2021, Malta became the first in Europe to legalize the private cultivation and use of cannabis. Luxembourg, Switzerland and the Czech Republic are taking steps towards a regulated market for the drug, by far the most popular in Sweden and the world. Germany is at the forefront, whose left-liberal government coalition plans to legalize cannabis and create a retail system similar to Systembolaget in Sweden. The argument is that legalization and regulation is the best way to crack down on criminal gangs and remove harmful products from the market, while generating tax revenue and freeing up police resources.Norway wrestles like Sweden with high drug-related death rates. After an extensive state investigation, the then right-wing government presented the so-called drug reform in 2021. The proposal, decriminalization of use and possession of small amounts of narcotics for personal use, looked like it would go through for a long time but was finally voted down in the Storting. Despite that, Norway has decriminalized in practice minor drug possession. This after the Attorney General and the Supreme Court presented new guidelines which mean that the police are no longer allowed to stop, search or arrest addicts on suspicion of possession of drugs for personal use. The new legal practice should benefit people with addiction disease, but according to representatives of the Norwegian Bar Association, the principle if equality before the law, it is likely that others will also be covered.As the first country in the world decriminalized Portugal use and possession of all narcotics for personal use in 2001. In the early 1990s, it was estimated that one percent of the population was addicted to heroin, and the increasingly repressive policies did not produce results. With the radical reform, money that had previously been spent on hunting and prosecuting addicts on a major expansion of the healthcare apparatus. According to the EU’s drug agency EMCDDA, 72 drug-related deaths were registered in Portugal in 2019. In Sweden, with a similar population, the corresponding figure was according to the Public Health Agency 545. The statistics should be interpreted with some caution when comparing countries. It is clear, however, that drug-related mortality in Portugal has fallen sharply in the last 20 years. About 15 European countries has decriminalized own use of cannabis. About the same number completely lack criminal classification for drug use. In several places the ban remains, but the punishment is civil rather than criminal. Much like a parking ticket. The motivations for a more liberal drug policy vary. In the Netherlands, cannabis has been sold openly in so-called coffeeshops since the 1970s. Better to allow the sale of so-called light drugs than to force it underground where buyers more easily come into contact with heavier drugs, was the original idea. In Iceland, the government is working on a similar bill to the Norwegian one, citing that drugs should be seen as a matter for healthcare rather than the justice system. In Finland, which according to the EMCDDA has the highest drug-related mortality among young people under 25, several parties have opened up for decriminalization. The Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland’s counterpart to the Public Health Agency, recommends that all drugs be decriminalized. Uruguay and Canada have gone the furthest and fully legalized cannabis. Several US states have done the same, while the drug has remained illegal at the federal level. But that may be about to change. Last fall, President Joe Biden took a first step toward decriminalization when he ruled that anyone convicted in federal court of minor cannabis possession should be pardoned. Biden also promised to review the classification of cannabis, which today belongs in the same category as the much more dangerous drug heroin and fentanyl.

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