Norway’s Parliament recently voted to decriminalize illicit drug use involving cocaine, heroin and marijuana, according to The Huffington Post.
The Post on Monday reported that the majority of the governing body – which is called the Storting – backed the strategy.
The proposal would divert people found with small quantities of narcotics into treatment options rather than pursuing criminal prosecution against them.
The Dec. 13 vote directs Norway’s government to start pursuing changes to national law reflecting the Storting’s decision.
The parliamentary results do not automatically decriminalize illicit drugs in Norway, and there is no draft legislation yet that would actually implement such a change.
“The majority in the parliament has asked the government to prepare for reform,” a Storting spokesperson told Newsweek last week, a day after the vote. “It has started a political process … it’s just the starting point.”
The deputy chairman of the Storting’s health committee said after last week’s vote that Norway would not be legalizing the drugs themselves, just decriminalizing their use.
“The change will take some time, but that means a changed vision,” Sveinung Stensland told Norwegian media outlet VG.
“Those who have a substance abuse problem should be treated as ill, and not as criminals with classical sanctions such as fines and imprisonment,” he added.
The Storting’s plan was modeled after the system used in Portugal, which drug law reformers worldwide have touted as a preferable option to jailing narcotics users.
Portugal decriminalized drugs in 2001 after years of strict policies failed to significantly impact deaths and drug usage there.
A report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction earlier this year found that 8.6 percent of Norwegians ages 16 to 34 used cannabis (marijuana) last year.
The report also revealed that 2.2 percent of that group used cocaine and 1.2 percent used MDMA (ecstasy) during the same period.
Norway additionally saw 266 overdose deaths and more than 48,000 drug law offenses in 2014, according to the report.