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Normal people: cannabis and policy in Norway

Ester Nafstad, Manager of Norwegian cannabis advocacy body Normal, tells MCN publication about the chapter’s goals and the need for reform of cannabis policy in Norway.

Established in 1994, Normal is the Norwegian arm of international cannabis law reform campaign group NORML. Ester Nafstad, Manager of Normal, tells MCN about the chapter’s goals and the need for cannabis policy reform in Norway.

What are the main objectives of Normal Norge? What does Normal do to support patients and campaign for policy change?

Our objectives include monitoring the development towards legalisation and decriminalisation of cannabis in other countries, and participating in debate and conception of drug policy at home. In addition, we strive to act as a resource for cannabis users and work for the rights of innocent victims of punitive policies or intrusive and undemocratic government sanctions.

Some examples of what we do include:

  • Representing Norwegian cannabis users in parliamentary hearings;
  • Facilitating cannabis research – we have recently launched a report in English about the negative consequences of control in the enforcement of current Norwegian law regarding cannabis;
  • Publishing articles in our magazine På Høy Tid (‘It’s High Time’);
  • Framing different aspects of cannabis in Norwegian media;
  • Organising open gatherings and presentations where local people can participate;
  • Working on setting up local activist groups around the country; and
  • Answering a steady flow of questions coming in from cannabis users.

What is the legal status of cannabis in Norway?

All recreational use of cannabis is illegal. Medical cannabis is legal, but it is still but difficult to acquire.

A programme of reform to Norwegian drug policy is underway; and is expected to take effect in early 2021. Once the reform, which is inspired by Portugal’s policy on drugs, is implemented, all personal use of drugs and possession of small amounts for individual use will be decriminalised. The full details of these changes are not yet ready, however.

How has the law evolved since Normal was first established?

The law has pretty much been the same, but the public debate has evolved a lot – particularly since around 2010, when some scientists called for cannabis to be legalised. They argued that its status as an illegal drug led to a more harmful cannabis culture. Since then, more and more politicians have argued for legalisation; and organisations like Normal and other bodies advocating reform have taken a larger role in the debate.

A petition signed by several cannabis advocacy organisations, politicians and scientists was published in one of Norway’s largest newspapers in late 2018, calling for the government to stop the punishment of people who use drugs: this caused the health minister to demand the decriminalisation of all drug use in Norway. The reform was decided and, as mentioned above, is expected to be implemented next year.

What are the main challenges facing patients trying to access medical cannabis?

There is still little knowledge among doctors and other healthcare workers when it comes to medical cannabis. Patients often report they are looked upon with suspicion after bringing up the topic of medical cannabis with their practitioners.

A patient needs a recommendation from a specialist to receive a prescription: this is something that prolongs the process. The only patients who get a recommendation are those who are severely ill, such as cancer patients or children with complicated epilepsy conditions.

Typically the financial cost of medications and healthcare is covered by the welfare system, but this is not the case with medical cannabis. For some patients and families the cost can be as high as 30,000 Norwegian kroner (

These challenges are causing most people who in need of medical cannabis to get treatment in another European country, most commonly in the Netherlands. The Schengen agreement allows European citizens to travel across borders with up to one month’s supply of prescription medicines; this means they have to take the trip once every month.

What changes would you like to see implemented into cannabis policy in Norway?

We do think that the anticipated drug policy reform will solve a number of issues: hopefully it will reduce the stigma attached to drug use and make help for those who need it more widely accessible – but it will not do anything to solve the problems which are associated with an unregulated criminal market. In our consultative input to the government we have advised for further measures to address these issues, for example by permitting the growth of cannabis for personal consumption or the introduction of cannabis social clubs, following the Spanish and Swiss models.

Do you think Scandinavian laws on cannabis will become less strict in the future?

Yes, we do believe that the Scandinavian countries will find a more progressive way of dealing with cannabis. The public debate on cannabis is moving forward.

Ester Nafstad
Manager
Normal
www.normalnorge.no

This article is for issue 3 of Medical Cannabis Network. Click here to get your free subscription today.

Ester Nafstad, Manager of Norwegian cannabis advocacy body Normal, tells MCN publication about the chapter’s goals and the need for reform of cannabis policy in Norway.

Marijuana Laws in Norway: Is Weed Legal?

Justin Sullivan / Staff /Getty Images

To a large extent, Norway falls under the category of countries that have outlawed the possession and use of cannabis. Under 2018 marijuana laws in Norway, it is illegal to possess, sell, transport and cultivate marijuana, but in December 2017, the Norwegian Parliament decriminalized personal drug use, including cannabis.

As a result, even in cases where an individual in Norway demonstrates no intention to use or sell cannabis, they are still liable to punishment by law, and any acts relating to marijuana possession, transportation, and cultivation are considered to be in contravention of the established marijuana laws in Norway.

Breaking the drug laws could attract heavy punishment for international visitors, and in Norway, any quantity of cannabis found in an offender’s possession will make them liable. However, the quantity itself will determine the different kinds of punishment, which can range from a small fine to several years in jail or deportation from the country (for international visitors).

Punishments for Marijuana

Although marijuana has been decriminalized, that doesn’t mean that the government of Norway can’t press charges against egregious offenders.

Punishment for marijuana starts with monetary fines for smaller quantities of less than 15 grams, as they are generally taken to be for personal use, and transgressions over the 15-gram limit are considered dealing in cannabis, which could yield much heavier penalties.

First-time offenders for personal use will pay fines of between 1,500 and 15,000 Norwegian kroner ($251 to $2,510) for illegal possession, and travelers could be banned from the country for violating domestic policy—though this is highly unlikely since decriminalization rules took effect.

Repeat offenders for personal use will likely be offered or required to attend rehabilitation programs or medical services for treatment of addiction, though they will no longer be sentenced to jail time, which used to range from six months to two years in local prisons.

Dealers, on the other hand, can still serve jail terms if convicted for selling or possessing large quantities. They could serve sentences of up to 15 years for major drug trafficking and distribution cases involving marijuana—even though it’s decriminalized.

Traveling with Marijuana in Norway

Travelers are not allowed to bring marijuana into Norway. If you’re caught trying to bring marijuana into the country, you will be detained and later arraigned in court for prosecution in the country. There’s even a case of a celebrity, Snoop Dogg, who was banned from Norway for two years after attempting to enter the country in possession of this substance in 2012.

Despite the marijuana laws in Norway, there are still a number of people who use the drug for recreational purposes in the country. Nightclubs remain major distribution points for the drug, especially in the Norwegian capital Oslo, where police have issued public statements about how they will no longer process weed charges or arrest Norwegian citizens for possession.

However, in order to stay out of trouble with Norwegian authorities as a tourist, it is advisable to act within the provisions of current laws in Norway, especially since you are a guest of this country.

Medical Marijuana in Norway

It is only under special circumstances that a window in the law allows for travel with and use of marijuana in Norway: medical necessity.

For a traveler to be allowed to bring cannabis into Norway, they must get a doctor’s prescription for marijuana, which will serve as proof of the medical condition that warrants their use of the drug. Please note that the prescription must be on official hospital stationary like any other medical prescription—no hand-written notes!

Norway allows this type of medical marijuana use because there are currently no stores in the country that sell the drug for medical purposes and its international policy prevents it from interfering with the medical laws of other countries or the health of other countries’ citizens.

Please note that the article shown above includes information about cannabis cultivation, drug laws, recreational use of marijuana, medical uses for marijuana, and other topics that readers may find offensive. The content is for educational or research purposes only and drug use is not condoned by this site.

Under current marijuana laws in Norway, it is illegal to possess, sell, transport, and cultivate marijuana, but there is an exception.