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Most Icelanders opposed to the decriminalization of drug use despite growing support among politicians

By Staff

  • A growth industry Despite a growing wave in support of decriminalization of drug use among politicians average Icelanders remain firmly opposed to the idea. Photo/Daníel Rúnarsson.

A recent poll conducted by sociologists at the University of Iceland indicates the majority of Icelanders are opposed to the decriminalization (link in Icelandic) of drug use. At the same more and more politicians seem to be coming out in support for decriminalization.

Growing political support for decriminalization
The national congress of the conservative Independence party, held over the weekend approved a motion in support of the decriminalization of drug use. The party resolved that “addiction should be viewed as a health care issue rather than a law enforcement issue,” and that emphasis should be placed on treatment of addiction and the treatment of drug users along the Swiss model. This includes an emphasis on harm reduction measures like the provision of supervised injection rooms and needle exchanges.

Read more: Do Icelanders really smoke more cannabis than anyone else?

The minister of health, Kristján Þór Júlíusson, who is a member of the Independence party, recently told the local news site visir.is that drug use should be tackled by the health care system, rather than the criminal justice system. The former chairman of the centrist Bright future party has also come out in support of decriminalization of marijuana use, as have elected representatives of the Pirate party. The Pirate party platform includes a plank on the decriminalisation of drug use. Decriminalization has also been discussed within the Left-green alliance, whose chairman has stated drug use should be considered a health care problem, rather than a criminal problem. The only party which has not discussed decriminalization is the centre-right Progressive party.

Public continues to be skeptical
But despite this growing support for decriminalization among politicians, the general public continues to be opposed to the idea. Helgi Gunnlaugsson, professor of sociology at the University of Iceland and a student of his, Jónas Orri Jónasson, have recently completed a study of public attitudes of decriminalization, finding that only 30% of Icelander support that the possession of controlled substances for personal use be decriminalized, while 56% opposed such a move.

However, Helgi told the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service that there was a dramatic difference in support among different generations, and that support for decriminalization was strongest among younger people, which indicates that support for decriminalization could grow in the future.
 

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