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OPINION - CANNABIS

POLITICS

Hash fans slam Norway’s half-baked hypocrisy

Torkel Bjørnson-Langen, the manager of NORMAL, Norway's pro-cannabis group, says the forced resignation of one of the Conservative Party's most promising young MPs over cannabis smoking last month was sadly no surprise.

Hash fans slam Norway's half-baked hypocrisy
Torkel Bjørnson-Langen, the manager of NORMAL, Norway's leading cannabis campaign group. Photo: Campaign for legitimate outlets for hash and marijuana (luhm.no)
I have talked to a handful of younger people from or supporting the Conservative Party about the forced resignation of Erik Skutle, and some of them are quite shell-shocked.
 
Partly it's because they see this as a core liberal issue the Conservative Party should support, but mostly it's because of the hypocrisy. A lot of people in the Conservative Party have personal experience with cannabis, as a lot of people do everywhere these days, and I find it very hard to believe that the senior management of the party don't know anything about it.
 
So the motto seems to be: "Do as we say, not as we act!" 
 
Based on previous experience, we are unfortunately not that amazed; at least not surprised. In the election last year, the Conservative Party was the only party to put "zero tolerance", or "a vision of zero illicit drug use" as they call it, in their programme. And it was also used by some as a core/differentiating issue in the debates. 
 
It fits nicely with their "tough on crime" theme. Although when we and others have proposed that decriminalizing personal possession to free up policy resources that can be re-allocated inside the police, they are not delighted.
 
The funny thing is that the "father" of their "zero tolerance vision",  professor of sociology, Willy Pederson, has
publicly stated that this was a mistake, and that he now recommends a pragmatic and scientific approach where harm reduction is the primary concern.
 
We have on multiple occasions tried to ask members of the parliament how they systematically can overrule the recommendations from their own expert groups and other academic researchers and specialists on the topic. 
 
The only answers we have gotten is:
 
1) We take the holistic view. We see the "bigger underlying issues"  that the more "narrow thinking" academics don't see or don't take into account.
 
2) The public do not want it.
 
Both the left and right say this, although the right have pushed it a little bit harder. 
 
Which stance the politicians take is much more strongly correlated with age than party lines.
 
Another friend told me he thinks this was a step backwards for free speech in Norway. And more importantly: it made him see that the right to free speech is not as strong as we like to think here in Norway. It reminds me of a book title: "Hell no! Your right to dissent in the 21th century."
 

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RUSSIA

Norwegian minister says country has ‘good control’ at Russian border

The queue of cars waiting to enter Norway at its northern border with Russia was reported to be long on Sunday, but Oslo said it has no immediate plans to shut the crossing.

Norwegian minister says country has ‘good control’ at Russian border

A total number of 295 people on Sunday entered Norway from Russia at the Storskog border crossing in northern county Finnmark, according to police figures reported by NTB. 174 crossed in the opposite direction.

Russia does not appear to have restricted its citizens from leaving for Norway, though rumours suggest Moscow could move to ban men of mobilisation age from leaving. Finland closed its border to tourists with Russian visas on Friday.

“We will close the border quickly if necessary, and changes can come at short notice,” Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl said on Friday.

Norway can close its border with a few hours’ notice, according to the minister.

READ ALSO: Norway to boost security along border with Russia

But Mehl said following a meeting with police officials near the border on Sunday that she was satisfied with the current situation and that a complete closure was not immediately on the cards.

“It was a useful meeting. It is important for the government that we have good control of the border with Russia. We are now the only country in the Schengen zone with an open border to Russia. It is extra important for us that we have security around the border station at Storskog and the surrounding areas,” Mehl said to news wire NTB.

The minister stressed that the border would not be closed at the current time.

“Our position is that everyone who wants to apply for asylum in Norway has the right to do so,” she said.

The Storskog crossing on Norway’s almost 200-kilometre (120-mile) far northern border with Russia is now practically the only remaining point of entry into the Schengen area for Russians with tourist visas.

“Finland has restricted who can go there but there are still exceptions in their rules and the border is open for a small number. But it is important that we reassess this continually,” Mehl said.

Norway is not a member of the European Union but is part of the Schengen area, which all but stopped issuing Schengen tourist visas to Russians in May. But Russian holders of visas and residence permits issued by other European countries are able to cross into Norway to transit.

The earlier part of last week saw over 400 people enter Norway from Russia daily, according to NTB, but the number fell to between 100 and 200 in the second half of the week. The news wire reports that Russian nationals it spoke to on the Norwegian side of the border said there are still long queues of people on the Russian side, waiting to enter Norway.

Mehl said that full closure of the border by Norway would be a “drastic” measure.

“We have seen that the numbers have gone a little up and down in Norway but it is nowhere close to the numbers Finland has had,” she said.

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