Heart-driven Movendi International members at IOGT Norway are leading the parents’ appeal to change the drug reform proposal in Norway which in its current proposal risks putting children and youth into harm’s way.
In 2017 a majority in Parliament adopted a proposal that asked the government to transfer
responses for how Norway approaches heavy users from the criminal justice system to the health system. A committee was set up to investigate and propose what kind of law changes were required and how this should work in practice.
The committee presented their proposal last year. The submitted proposal means a radical change in Norway’s drug policy.
The law changes contained in the proposal would apply to all drug users not only heavy users and to all drugs.
The proposal raises the amount of drugs that a person can possess without being fined or receiving any other kind of penalty to very high levels.
The proposal eliminates the currently existing alternative sentencing methods used for young people, unless they voluntarily choose them.
There will be no consequences for possessing drugs according to the proposal. The police will just take the drugs away and ask the person to meet a committee consisting of representatives from the health service and other relevant agencies.
This meeting is supposed to be obligatory but there are no consequences if the person decides not to meet the committee. The committee might attempt meeting the person in other ways. However, municipalities are not getting more resources for this extra work. Therefore, IOGT Norway is concerned that this extra effort simply will not happen.
At the meeting the person will receive information about the consequences of drug use as well as – depending on the discussion – options for treatment would be offered. Parents are asked to take part in the next meeting. If the child is over 16 years of age they can decide whether to get parents involved or not.
IOGT Norway received requests from parents
IOGT Norway had received several requests from concerned parents regarding the new proposal, how it will affect their children and how it will affect their ability to help their children if it became the law.
Taking these requests into consideration and evaluating their own experiences and insights from working with drug use prevention and treatment and rehabilitation, IOGT Norway decided to join hands with other organizations in the filed of drug prevention to launch an appeal against this proposal recommending a different approach.
“Foreldreoppropet” – The parents’ appeal – was launched this spring. Since then more than 8300 people have signed on at www.foreldreoppropet.no and expressed their concern.
The appeal has a parental perspective. The reasons for parents’ concerns about the proposed far-reaching changes to Norwegian drug law are numerous:
- Youth loose reasons to stay free from drug use;
- Parents loose important support from society at large in their work to prevent drug use among their children; and
- The police looses some of their tools to uncover drug crimes.
The parents’ appeal proposes a different reform instead of the one tabled, a reform based on the following cornerstones:
- Heavy users or people living with drug addiction should not be punished but need heath care. This is in agreement with the proposal for a drug reform.
- The options of treatment and care offered to heavy drug users must be improved compared to today.
- More youth must get the help they need – the follow-up process with drug-free contracts needs to be strengthened and should be an option also for young adults, not just for youth under the age of 18.
- Better at information must be provided for both youth and parents about the harmful effects of
- More people must get help to live a drug-free life.
IOGT Norway acknowledges that decriminalization is the way to go for heavy users of drugs but not for all drug users as this can increase risks and harms. The members of IOGT Norway and the people supporting the Parents’ Appeal are concerned that this could be a step towards legalization. Their concern is warranted as many organizations who support legalization also support the proposed reform. There is also no mention of increased funding for municipalities to conduct the additional work in the proposed reform. It would be difficult for municipalities to handle the extra work as they are already facing difficulties.
So far the Parents’ Appeal has initiated a broader societal debate about the proposed reforms. It is supported by 20 other civil society organizations. The next step is to hand over the signed appeal to the Minister of Family and Children during this autumn. The proposal will eventually be voted on in parliament in spring 2021.