Drug Reporter interview with Ina Roll Spinnangr, the director of the Association for Safer Drug Policies, the NGO that organised the first Nordic Drug Policy Reform Conference last year.
Drugreporter: You are the leader of a relatively new organisation. How and why did you create this organisation?
Ina Spinnangr: There is a urgent need to reduce harm caused not only by drugs, but by today’s drug policies. Some of our policies actually increase the risk of deaths, crime, problematic use, and drug related problems. The Association for Safer Drug Policies works to change harmful drug policies through grassroots efforts, education, and active engagement with policymakers. Before our organisation was founded there were already a few active user associations, some academics, and older organisations with roots in the temperance movement who dominated the debate. Some of us took part in the public debate, but we did not feel at home in the existing organisations. There was a need for a new association that could embrace more voices from all walks of life.
The Health Committee of the Storting (Norwegian parliament) adopted a note last month in favour of decriminalising drug use. Activists in other countries may be interested in the process leading to this reform: was it a bottom-up movement or the decision of some enlightened politicians?
This was definitely a result of a bottom-up movement. It has had a few strong voices for quite some time, like Arild Knutsen and Thorvald Stoltenberg. Since the beginning of 2016 The Association for Safer Drug Policies has become a strong voice in Norwegian drug policy, and together with the other organisations working for drug policy reform we have been able to shift the centreline of the Norwegian public debate and influence the programs of almost all major political parties, including the party of government. Even though we were certain changes would come at some point, we didn’t expect our Health Minister from the Conservative party to change his view on decriminalisation as fast as he did. It really takes courage to front new drug policies and to take a new stand in a heated debate like this, like he did.