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Back to Decriminalization of Narcotics

I.  Narcotics Legislation

Norway criminalizes the possession and use of narcotics.[1]  Norwegian law provides a list of regulated narcotics that includes specific known drugs and unspecified drugs of “similar” effect.[2]  Cannabis (marijuana) is on the list of prohibited narcotics.[3]  It is currently legal to import drugs containing regulated narcotics for personal medicinal use in limited quantities provided that the person importing the drug has a prescription from a doctor.[4]  A prescription drug containing cannabinoids used for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms is legally available in Norway.[5]

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II.  Drug Treatment Programs

Violations of drug laws typically result in fines or prison sentences depending on the severity of the crime.[6]  However, Norwegian authorities have instituted a program whereby a person can opt to enroll in a drug treatment program instead of going to prison.[7]  The program does not make the use of drugs legal, nor is it meant as a legalization effort; rather, it is intended as a program to prevent relapse and additional criminality while improving the health of the person convicted.[8]  The program is only available for those convicted of drug-related crimes, such as violations of sections 231 and 232 of Straffeloven (the Criminal Act) or section 31 of Legemedelsloven (the Prescription Drugs Act), or crimes committed while under the influence of illegal drugs or to finance drug use.[9]

The program was first introduced in 2006 and piloted in two Norwegian districts.[10]  The project became national on January 1, 2016, and is intended to run at least until December 31, 2016.[11]  It provides for routine and unscheduled urine tests[12] and an individualized four–phase program (introductory, stabilization, responsibility, and continuation/transfer phases).[13]  Violators of the program are sent to jail.[14]  

The program has been criticized by organizations favoring reform of drug laws such as the Norwegian branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) for not going far enough.[15]

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Prepared by Elin Hofverberg
Foreign Law Research Consultant
July 2016


[1] Forskrift om narkotika (narkotikaforskriften) [Regulation on Narcotics (Narcotics Regulation)] [FOR 2013-02-14-199], https://lovdata.no/dokument/SF/forskrift/2013-02-14-199, archived at https://perma.cc/U889-X3BB.

[2] Id. § 3.

[3] Id. (scroll down to Narkotikelisten, cannabis).

[4] Id. § 19.

[5] Press Release, Legemidelverket [Norwegian Medicines Agency], Cannabislegemiddelet Sativex godkjent i Norge [Cannabis Medicine Sativex Approved in Norway] (Nov. 28, 2012), http://legemiddelverket.no/Nyheter/Andre/ Sider/Cannabislegemiddelet-Sativex-godkjent-i-Norge.aspx, archived at https://perma.cc/855U-Y7RS.

[6] § 162 Strafffeloven [Criminal Act] [LOV 1903-05-22-10], https://lovdata.no/dokument/NLO/lov/1902-05-22-10/KAPITTEL_2#KAPITTEL_2, archived at https://perma.cc/WQQ8-YYAY.

[7] Forskrift om forlengelse av prøveordning med narkotikaprogram med domstolskontroll [Regulation on Extension of Trial Period for Narcotics Program with Judicial Controls] [FOR 2016-02-15-152], https://lovdata.no/ dokument/SF/forskrift/2016-02-12-152?q=narkotika, archived at https://perma.cc/FS5V-ESX2.

[8] Id. § 1.

[9] Id. § 3.

[10] Id. § 1.

[11] Id.

[12] Id. § 7.

[13] Id. § 7, para. 4.

[14] Id. § 11.

[15] Ester Nafstad, Op-ed., Norway: The Emperor’s New Drug Policies, Huffington post (Jan. 21, 2016), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ester-nafstad/norway-the-emperors-new-drug-policies_b_9040746.html, archived at https://perma.cc/4NFB-5EE4.