Norway grants refuge to US smuggler

The Norwegian Supreme Court has declared that US prisons do not meet their minimum humanitarian standards, and on July 16 refused to extradite accused American hash-smuggler Henry Hendricksen.
In 1997, Hendricksen was arrested in Norway and charged with conspiracy to smuggle 50 tons of hash into the US in 1991 (but not from Norway). Charges were filed in Vermont.

Hendricksen, 49, is outspoken in his love for cannabis. He has declared it God’s gift to man, and says that he has no regrets for his actions.

Hendricksen’s lawyer, John Elden, introduced evidence from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to show the inhumane state of US jails. In an interview with Cannabis Culture, Elden also explained that, although hash is illegal in Norway, US conspiracy laws were not valid under Norwegian law.

The US media claimed that Norway’s prisons were like “medium-priced motels”, but Elden explained that “most prisons are new, they don’t have many inmates, and sentences are not long compared with American ones.”

Does this case mean Norway will be swamped with pot-refugees? Bard Solheim of NORML Norway hopes so, declaring “Every cannabis activist from America should apply for asylum in Norway!”

Elden is more cautious. “There might be a problem if no one is handed over to the US and Norway is considered a free country. But if the US confirms certain conditions of imprisonment [in future cases], extradition will be allowed.”

Elden said Hendricksen had been placed in a refugee center, and would likely be granted asylum.

Pot in Norway

NORML Norway’s Bard Solheim described Norway’s pot-scene. “There is a lot of high-quality marijuana in Norway. Homemade indoors. There is also a lot of hashish. Prices have been stable for 15 years, but are now falling! The penalties are also falling, but you can still get arrested for smoking, and in the worst sale or smuggling case, get 21 years in prison.”

Renee Boje

Renee Boje hopes this case sets an international precedent. She is a US citizen seeking refugee status in Canada against charges of pot-cultivation and conspiracy. Her charges relate to Todd McCormick’s “marijuana mansion” in California’s Bel-Air (see CC#19, Fighting for life in California). She faces a mandatory 10 years behind bars if convicted.