Majority opposes legalizing cannabis

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A vast majority of Norwegians, just over 80 percent, oppose any law change aimed at legalizing hash and marijuana in Norway. A new public opinion poll indicates that only a small portion of the population supports liberalizing drug laws.

The poll, conducted by research firm Respons Analyse for newspaper Aftenposten, showed that just 13 percent of those questioned were positive to a change in the law that would make it legal to smoke hash and marijuana. Fully 81 percent were negative and 6 percent were undecided.

More restrictive attitudes
Justice Minister Anders Anundsen was encouraged by the results. “I’m very satisfied that an overwhelming majority oppose legalization,” Anundsen told Aftenposten over the weekend. He called liberalization of drug laws “a completely wrong move,” adding that it also was wrong to believe that hash and marijuana weren’t dangerous.

The poll indicates that Norwegians have grown more restrictive in their assessment of drug laws. A similar poll taken just two years ago also showed a majority opposed to liberalization but it was 67 percent compared to 81 percent now. Roughly 20 percent were in favour, compared to just 13 percent now.

The issue of cannabis liberalization arises regularly, not least since marijuana was legalized in several states in the US, but it never gains a firm foothold among the Norwegian public. Researchers remain divided on the issue.

‘Overhaul needed’
“Norway’s narcotics laws are 50 years old and need an overhaul,” Willy Pedersen a professor at the University of Oslo, told Aftenposten. He urges decriminalization, claiming it is “unreasonable” to face a 21-year prison term, the longest allowed in Norway, “for importing something that is legally available in the US.”

Pedersen claims there is little evidence that consumption will increase if marijuana, for example, is decriminalized. Anne Line Bretteville-Jensen of SIRUS, the Norwegian Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research, disagrees. She claims legalization will influence both price and accessibility.

“It will increase consumption,” Bretteville-Jensen, SIRUS’ research leader, said. More people will have problems, she said, such as dependency, learning difficulties and mental illness.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund