Will Submit a Revised Decriminalisation Bill this Autumn

Minister of Health Willum Þór Þórsson

Iceland’s Health Minister Willum Þór Þórsson says he will submit a revised bill to decriminalise possession of illegal substances in small quantities, RÚV reports. Willum has faced criticism for withdrawing his decriminalisation bill from Parliament’s spring agenda. He says the bill is now being reviewed by a group that includes specialists on the matter.

Read More: Disappointment as Health Minister Shelves Decriminalisation Bill

MPs and rights organisations have criticised the Minister’s decision to drop the bill from Alþingi’s spring agenda. Willum says that the working group will collect data, define terminology, and better organise the issue. They are expected to finish their work by the end of this month. He added that while there has not been consensus on the bill within Parliament, he believes the working group will help solve existing disagreements.

“I have put the matter into a very broad consultation, which is what is often called for, and then I intend to introduce it in the autumn session, which is only five months away,” the Health Minister stated.

Disappointment as Health Minister Shelves Decriminalisation Bill

Health Minister Willum Þór Þórsson has received criticism for shelving a bill that would have decriminalised possession of illegal drugs in small amounts. Kristín Davíðsdóttir, director of the Icelandic Red Cross’ harm reduction team, says the Minister’s decision to take the bill off Parliament’s calendar is a big disappointment that will negatively impact at-risk populations.

“I have to admit that this somewhat surprised me, I didn’t expect it. It seemed to us that there was a certain momentum in the whole community in support of decriminalisation,” Kristín told RÚV. “We have seen a big change just in the nation’s opinion. Around 60% of the nation describes itself as supportive of decriminalisation today. So I found it sad, first and foremost.”

Complicates operation of safe injection site

Iceland legalised safe injection sites in 2020, but it wasn’t until earlier this month that the Red Cross opened the country’s first: a mobile site that is stationed in downtown Reykjavík between 10:00 PM and 4:00 AM, while shelters are closed. The site provides clients 18 years of age and older with sterilised needles, helps them avoid overdosing, and even provides warm socks, hats, and gloves to those who need them.

The regulations on safe injection sites permits clients to carry illegal substances in small doses. However, it complicates the site’s operation if those same clients can be arrested for possession at a certain distance from the safe injection vehicle, Kristín says. “And of course it’s just never good when things are set up in this way. And especially not concerning this group. This is a very broken-down group that has a hard time trusting, has a hard time trusting the system. I think it’s incredibly important to erase any kind of doubt just in order to foster increased safety and trust in this group.”