Norway's main opposition Labour Party on Friday rejected a government plan to decriminalise the personal use of drugs in small quantities, saying the measure could incite young people to experiment with narcotics.
Under the centre-right coalition government's proposal submitted in February, both the possession and use of small quantities of drugs, including heroin, cocaine and cannabis, would no longer have been punishable under the criminal code, but users would still have had to seek help.
The ruling party however needed backing from the opposition in parliament in order for the bill to be approved.
Although the Labour Party is in principal in favour of doing away with penalties for heavy drug users, it is against decriminalising drug use for the wider population.
Proponents of the bill argued that criminal prosecution of drug users can be counterproductive as it deters those with abuse problems from seeking help, makes it more difficult for relatives to detect problems and stigmatises an already vulnerable demographic.
Although the bill was rejected on Friday, negotiations could still lead to a different text decriminalising heavy drug use being adopted.
Despite having one of the highest living standards in Europe, Norway -- and other Nordic countries -- have seen higher numbers of drug-related deaths per capita than the rest of Europe.
In recent years, 260 people have died annually from a drug overdose in Norway, according to a report published last year by the Norwegian Directorate of Health.