One of Northern Ireland's most senior drugs workers has said that class A drugs like heroin should be decriminalised, regulated and made available on prescription. "I think the impact of decriminalising, of regulating, of taking this activity out of the hands of organised crime, is the way to improve our society right now," said Michael Foley, the head of the Belfast Trust's Drug Outreach Team.
The Norwegian government it wants to decriminalise the inhalation of heroin, a method considered less dangerous than injecting it, to reduce the number of overdoses in the country. The move would make smoking heroin an offense on par with injecting, which is illegal in Norway but tolerated. Oslo's municipality operates a site where heroin addicts can inject drugs under safer, more hygienic circumstances.
The Swiss look set to approve the government's drugs policy, including the prescription of heroin to addicts, but will reject a plan to decriminalise cannabis. More than two-thirds of voters approved a plan to enshrine the government's four-pillar drugs policy in law. The official drugs strategy is based on prevention, harm reduction, therapy and repression. It was devised in response to the open drugs scene in Zurich and other Swiss cities during the 1990s.
A first opinion poll found that the prescription of heroin for addicts stands a good chance of passing on November 30. However, a proposal to decriminalise cannabis attracts neither a clear majority of supporters nor opponents six weeks before the ballot. Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin said decriminalising pot smoking could pose problems for Switzerland as a signatory state of international drug control conventions. In its campaign the government cautioned against rushing through legislation for which there was no majority in parliament four years ago.