Finland Moves Toward Cannabis Legalization

Finland is rated as the happiest country in the world according to UN happiness ranking. Could it be happier? 

Activists have gathered over 50,000 signatures – the number required by law for parliamentary consideration. Currently, the country has very stringent laws that prohibit possession, cultivation or use of cannabis, but the current breed of young politicians has created a wave of cannabis legalization advocacy. 

According to chapter 50 of the Criminal Code, possession, use, import, and sale of cannabis is illegal. The plant and its derivatives are classified as narcotics. 

The History of Cannabis Regulations in Finland

Hemp was made illegal in Finland in 1966, with personal consumption criminalized in 1972. In 2001, regulations were put in place to govern personal use policies. The move was made to ease the burden of personal use backlog in the courts. Police officers were given the mandate to issue summary fines, however, the defendant could choose to be charged in a court proceeding. 

However, there are harsh penalties for possession with intent to sell. Possession for personal use is considered anything less than 15g of marijuana. In medical applications, cannabis is legal but under very strict conditions. There are less than 500 individuals who are permitted to use medical cannabis in Finland

Cultivation or distribution of cannabis, no matter the amount, has very dire legal consequences

The Push to Legalize Cannabis in Finland

Janne Karvinen has been leading a team of citizens in an attempt to legalize the use of small amounts of cannabis. The initiative also seeks the go-ahead for hemp cultivation after collecting the required 50,000 signatures. The campaign kicked off in May 2019 but seemed like it was doomed after failing to collect half of the signatures at the beginning of October with only 30 days to go.

The tide turned as more people signed the petition in mid-October. Karvinen had this to say to Yle, “People usually leave things to the last minute. We’ve been promoting this recently and getting our message out on social media. There’s certainly more than 50,000 – or even more than 100,000 – people in Finland who support this issue”.

The sponsor said that the legalization of cannabis in Finland was the better option because the criminalization of cannabis in Finland had not worked. He noted that prohibition had led to exclusion and denial opportunities for cannabis users. He expressed confidence that the decriminalization of cannabis would go through. 

Change of Attitude for Cannabis Decriminalization

Doctors have been hesitant in making any cannabis prescriptions. The government passed a law that allowed medical use of cannabis from the Netherlands. After legalizing the medical use of cannabis in 2008, the laws that govern the use of marijuana for recreational purposes were also loosened. 

The current generation of young politicians is proposing a review of Finnish Drug Laws. There has been a change of heart, and most are pushing to abandon repression and embrace cannabis and its users. Sameli Sivonen, the Green Party Deputy Chairperson admitted that one of their goals was the legalization of cultivation as well as personal use of cannabis in Finland. Although he highlighted that everything surrounding recreational use of cannabis was still a big taboo within Finnish society. 

Because Finland is a democratic country, leaders will likely side with the opinion of the masses. In the last year, the use of cannabis has increased in the country. The current research and sensitization on the medical benefits of cannabis have fuelled more push for legalization. 

Lawmakers Decriminalization Debate

Finnish lawmakers will go on and discuss the decriminalization of cannabis, but are cautious regarding legalization, which is against the United Nations policies that prohibit member states from legalizing cannabis. However, some member states like Uruguay and Canada have not been derailed from the move. Decriminalization means the removal of criminal records of acts that are illegal. This means that offenders will not receive any punishment.

The Finnish move is in line with the current global trend of advocacy for cannabis decriminalization. Some countries are also pushing for the decriminalization of other drugs. Finnish advocates argue that the time and resources spent hunting marijuana users could be used elsewhere. 

Finland became the first Nordic/Baltic country to allow some form of cannabis for therapeutic use. However, the country went slow after the move in 2006. Currently, only 2 cannabis medications are allowed in Finland: Bedrocan and Sativex. 

What the Locals Think

The locals are always shy when it comes to the legalization of cannabis in Finland. It is seen as taboo, and there is an alarm for the high number of people using the medication without a prescription. There was also a report that indicated that close to 15% of the population had used marijuana at least once in the past year. Therefore, some proponents are proposing legalization so that the government can streamline the regulations. Some laws have loopholes that create controversy in cannabis use. 

Finnish Cannabis Association registration was seen as a new dawn for the legal cannabis industry in the early 1990s. However, the move seems to have yielded little fruit since only a handful of Finnish can use cannabis in any form legally. The movement focuses on advocating for the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis in Finland

The non-governmental organization studies the use and influence of cannabis in different cultures. It has seen its membership grow from 10 to over 700 since its inception in 1991. The organization has faced various challenges, and at one time faced deregistration. 

The Finnish cannabis industry has several undefined regulations. The loopholes leave a gap that makes enforcement hectic. Though medical use of cannabis is legal, there is still laxity from practitioners to prescribe the medication. Some argue that there is no proven research that the medication does help. 

The current push by young politicians and proponents has seen a new revival of cannabis advocacy. The ball is in the court of Finnish lawmakers to determine what happens next. The number of proponents is rising by the day in Finland, and the government cannot ignore what is happening around the world