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."