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Drug Policies in the Nordic Countries: The Case of Iceland


Date: Thursday 3 March 2022

Time: 13.00 – 14.00

Location: C603

Seminar with professor Helgi Gunnlaugsson


I plan to speak about a recent book publication from Stockholm University Press: Retreat or Entrenchment? Drug Policies in the Nordic Countries at a Crossroads edited by Henrik Tham.  A chapter I wrote about the Icelandic drug situation in Iceland will be presented in my talk.

Iceland has more or less adopted a criminal justice response to production, possession and sale of drugs modelled after international legal policy measures. In the wake of a public debate about drug abuse in society, a paradigm shift in the control of drugs can be detected in most recent years in Iceland. Instead of a predominantly criminal justice response toward drug use, abuse of drugs is increasingly being viewed as a public health problem. 

A case in point demonstrating a new shift is a recent legal change (2020) allowing consumer rooms for drug addicts; and minor possession of drugs not notified anymore on the criminal record of violators (2019). Moreover in 2021, the Minister of Health introduced a bill decriminalizing possession of all drugs for personal use, yet not passed in Parliament. 

As for importation, production and distribution of drugs punishment continues to be relatively harsh in Iceland with no policy shift in sight regarding prison sentencing practices. About 40% of the inmate population has served time in prison for drug offences in the past few years.

How different is Iceland from the other Nordic countries? Similar trends or more of the same?


Helgi Gunnlaugsson, PhD 
Professor of Sociology
University of Iceland
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