By Roland Sebestyén
While the debate on cannabis legalisation has been ongoing in Finland – with the Green Party officially announcing support for reforms to the country’s drug policy, a recent survey shows that there is not yet enough support for legalisation among the wider population.
The Finnish paper Yle reports that according to Pekka Hakkarainen, a research professor at the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), only around one in five people believe that cannabis should be fully legal in Finland.
At the same time, cannabis is fairly popular among those in the 25-34 age range: Mr Hakkarainen said every one in three people in this group would be happy to see cannabis legalised.
Even after the Green Party – who gives a few ministers in the government, including the Minister of Interior – announced a proposal that would decriminalise the use, possession, manufacture and sale of cannabis, Mr Hakkarainen is cautious.
He said: “In my opinion, the Finnish population is not ready for that yet. There is no broad support for it. We have had a total ban on [illicit drug use] for more than 50 years, and when it is changed, we will not know exactly what will follow.
“Nowadays, even the very occasional user of cannabis can be caught and sanctioned by the police or the judiciary. This has a significant impact on the lives of young people.
“If criminality were waived, the issue of drug use could be raised more easily, for example, in schools or occupational health care. Current policies drive people to hide their use to the bitter end.”
Other experts added that while a legal market could be a bit far from reality right now, the Greens’ proposal could be a really good step in the right direction – it must be noted that there is no mention of cannabis in the programme of the current government.
Kimmo Nuotio, Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Helsinki, said: “For a good fifty years, we have had a very strong view in favour of criminalisation, that is that all drug use and possession should be punished.
“I think it is great that there is a willingness in political circles to re-evaluate this type of thing.”
Currently, Finnish laws prohibit the production, importation, transportation, sale, possession and use of cannabis.
While a campaign was set up to push the government to decriminalise the drug in 2019, there is, so far, no update on the matter.