Home Human Rights “Oslo’s Gutter boys” – Why Norway should legalize Cannabis.

“Oslo’s Gutter boys” – Why Norway should legalize Cannabis.

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Norway is arresting thousands of young men with dark skin justified under a war on cannabis whilst the white boys go free. Meanwhile, we build asylums, increase racism and solve no problems.

This is the English and internationalized version of the article “Gatas gutter” first published in www.minervanett.no

This shows the need to take control of the cannabis market so that it does not facilitate a perpetual and reinforcing cycle for foreigners who are tempted or forced by the unregulated and illegal black economy. The reality is that people are just as poor and the black economy is just as tempting, no matter how many we catch and send out. Only a tiny part of the cannabis trade in Oslo takes place on the streets. This small portion of street sales is incomparable to overall sales and is dominated by poor young men that are recognized and identified by their dark skin complexion.

“The police have taken 2,500 foreign drug sellers in four years. It shows the need for closed return center’s”

writes Oslo’s city council leader, Stian Berger Røsland.

The ethnic Norwegians that are largely forgotten in this hidden cannabis culture are as much “organized crime” as these poor fellows on the streets. The crimes committed are virtually identical yet it is the poor dark skin complexion ones from the streets that are so violently stigmatized in popular consciousness. Terms propagated across the political spectrum such as criminals, bastards, asylnark or shit-bag would have Orwell rolling in his grave. This is bent and twisted language created with the intention to dehumanize and create fear around a whole ethnicity.  This has resulted in one ethnic group alone carrying the burden of responsibility for a problem ethnic Norwegians are equally responsible for.

Norwegian People’s Aid, (a Norwegian Humanitarian Organization) recently came out with the following admonition,

“The drug trade is organised crime.” “The police must crack down on the organized criminal drug trade in Oslo.”

Public Prosecutions commented on the official police numbers,

“Tor-Aksel Busch is concerned about police efforts against organized crime, think they instead choose very simple drug cases.”

The hunt started in earnest before the local Oslo elections in 2011, after an article by the then leader Oslo SV, Per Østvold. Published by the a local Norwegian Paper, it stated;

“Sellers in Grünerløkka are mainly African immigrants and asylum seekers, and must face harsh reactions.” “Criminal asylum seekers must get quickly out of country, the police have to insert targeted measures over time, and measures must be prioritized budgetary”.

A few months later, “Operation Touchdown” was a reality. This, a two year police action, was aimed directly and exclusively at young men from West Africa.

The below picture is of Oslo Police during a brutal stop and search of an African man in May 2013. His throat was deeply and forcefully probed with Police Batons because he was suspected of concealing Narcotics. The man was not arrested and after the horrific treatment no medical assistance was provided. Amnesty International, The Norwegian Centre of Human Rights and some of Norway’s top lawyers were shocked by the public display and many questions have been asked about the Oslo Police relation to international human rights standards. The incident is now under investigation by multiple independent bodies. For the full article and film of this event click here.

Norway should legalize Cannabis.

The left side of politics and Norway’s humanitarian solidarity and human rights organizations have used their influence to build up their capacity to capture as many of the “bogus” asylum applicants as they can. In reality this means poor dark-skinned street sellers, and now they have caught so many of them that the Progress Party and the Conservatives will now build closed asylum center’s. It was only for Per Sandberg to say two words: “criminal asylum seekers”, then sit back and let the left do the job. When the job was done, the stigma was complete and a few thousand of those “fake” asylum seekers were caught and the Progress Party and the Conservatives introduce closed asylums center’s.

They have used poor street boys as a target in a political game and it is incomprehensible. A game played so badly that opponent’s do not even need to say more than two words. All that has been achieved is the socially harmful and dangerous stigmatization of poor people of dark skin complexion, especially West Africans. People are just as poor and the black economy of unregulated and uncontrolled cannabis market is still just as enticing.

What happens to the attitudes of the community when a whole generation grows up believing that virtually all sales of cannabis are being sold by young, poor boys with dark skin complexion on the street? What does this result in? What about the attitudes we apply to children? What about the enormous risks associated with the promotion of stigma as a social psychological phenomenon?

If you are a Norwegian young man in Oslo with African ancestry you are more likely to be stopped and searched than if you are white. That is, if two Norwegian friends, one white and the second black (African), each of which passes through the Greenland neighborhood in Oslo, he with the dark skin will often be stopped and searched rather than his white companion. What does this mean?

A report published recently shows that in England and Wales people of dark skin complexion are over six times more likely to be stopped and searched for drugs than for people of white skin complexion. Several international studies show the same thing. Human Rights Watch wrote in its report on the topic:

“Blacks are arrested on drug charges at more than three times the rate of whites and are sent to prison for drug convictions at ten times the white rate. These disparities cannot be explained by racial patterns of drug crime. They reflect law enforcement decisions to concentrate resources in low income minority neighbourhoods. They also reflect deep-rooted radicalised concerns, beliefs, and attitudes that shape the nation’s understanding of the “drug problem” and skew the policies chosen to respond to it”

Police criminologist Paul Larson writes in a comment:

“The same findings are well known from other international surveys and will certainly show the same tendency in Norway. Anything else would be sensational.”

What exactly are Norway’s figures? If there are twice as many black skinned men stopped and searched? Why have we no systematic studies? Why is there no debate? To combat racism, we need to focus attention on the war on drugs. This applies particularly to cannabis.

Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug that is affecting adolescents. Tens of thousands of young people at the start of their adult lives are criminalized (mainly boys), which among other things creates unnecessarily large contact between ordinary Norwegian youth and stronger and more dangerous substances, criminal groups and serious crime. In this lies the great human cost of criminalization.

Norwegian young men or what the status quo may refer to internally as  “our” young men, do not stand on the street and sell cannabis. The overwhelming weight of cannabis commerce takes place indoors among friends. The line between “helping” and “dealer ” is fluid and thousands of young people are in this grey area. Some are tempted to sell larger quantities, and this is a way into serious crime and possible prison. The hidden cannabis culture and economy around this industry is key to understanding the major risks associated with cannabis.

Young people have limited funds. Many young people finance their use of cannabis through small sales to friends. To remove this source of income alone will help to reduce cannabis use among many young people. It would be interesting to see figures on how many young boys who have been tempted by the fast money, excitement and status of the black market have had their lives ruined or significantly degraded. This would be a welcome and more holistic change to the constant focus and blame on the product its self.

By regulating cannabis into legitimate outlets corresponding to a liquor store scheme of control and restriction, this tempting crime will virtually disappear, along with street sales.

Individuals will then have to go to a regulated retail location, it will only be available during opening hours and you cannot buy if you are overtly affected. Customers will have to be old enough, you won’t be offered a stronger and more dangerous drug, you will purchase certified pure products and should be able to get information about healthier cannabis habits. Most importantly, you will no longer need to seek criminal groups and you will no longer be tempted to be involved in illegal sales.  You will no longer need to order unsafe and dangerous synthetic “cannabis” products over the internet and you won’t be labeled a criminal therefore you won’t be subjected to criminal threat and you will not be deprived of life chances. Discrimination will evaporate and the need for a secret life that can’t be talked about will disappear as well as the social obstacles involved in asking for help if needed.

Lawful use of cannabis with a market regulated and controlled by the government means that many young people wont have to start their adult lives on the wrong side of the law, which greatly affects behavior, environment and self identity. The argument for legalizing cannabis use does not include pronouncements that the drug is not dangerous, but regulated and controlled legal use and a regulated market means fewer and less severe costs for people and communities. This is particularly true for vulnerable groups with specific emphasis on non-ethic Norwegians with dark complexions.

We desperately need legal cannabis markets driven by considerations of public health and aimed at dismantling the black market like we do with alcohol policy? To deal with this, and to weigh the different options against each other, we need to identify the various costs associated with the various solutions. While we wait for the politicians to take the issue seriously, we continue to imprison countless poor and vulnerable men of dark skin ethnicity. While we do that, we create at the same time an incentive for illegal immigration, a barrier to integration, and a source of racial prejudice that affects countless people with dark skin in Norway.

And yet politicians close their eyes and build asylums instead.

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Stale Nygard
Stale Nygard is Norwegian born social commentator that focus heavily on the anti prohibition movement. He is author of the well received article Gatas gutter published in Minerva in 2014.