From Iceland — Health Ministry Workgroup: Limit Some Drug Crime Sentences To Fines

Health Ministry Workgroup: Limit Some Drug Crime Sentences To Fines

Published August 31, 2016

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Jón Benediktsson

A workgroup assembled by the Ministry of Health has recommended that the punishment for the possession or use of illegal drugs be limited solely to fines. The prospect of jail time, the workgroup contends, prevents people from seeking help out of fear of landing in serious legal trouble.

“The marginalisation is itself more dangerous than most of these substances, and results in death or extensive damage,” workgroup member Borgar Þór Einarsson told RÚV. “This is, in our opinion, a situation that doesn’t do anyone good.”

If someone is overdosing in the presence of others, he said, those people could face criminal charges if they call for help.

While the proposal is still being fine-tuned, Borgar points out that it would not make any major changes to existing legislation. Most minor use and possession charges are prosecuted with fines, but the proposal would make it definitive that people should not be put in jail for these crimes.

In addition, Vísir reports the workgroup recommends that a free needle exchange programme be instituted in Iceland. This, they believe, will end up paying for itself in the money saved on treating those sickened by tainted needles.

The police, on the other hand, are wholly against the proposal, saying that this step will only increase the numbers of people who take drugs.

The workgroup was assembled by Minister of Health Kristján Þór Júlíusson in 2014. The Minister has himself been a vocal supporter of decriminalisation, saying that he believes Iceland’s drug laws as a whole are in need of review.

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