FINLAND’S Green party is calling for the end of cannabis prohibition in the Scandinavian country.
The Green League backed a policy of legalisation and regulation of cannabis by just 183 votes to 181 at its virtual party conference last weekend.
The motion called for the “repeal of the Cannabis Prohibition Act and the authorisation of the use, possession, manufacture and sale of cannabis.”
The move has no official basis, but it makes the Green League the first political party in the Finnish parliament – where it holds 20 of the 200-members seats – to call for the legalisation of cannabis.
Five-Member Coalition Government
It has also reopened debate about what is the most commonly used drug in Finland, but which in a recent poll only 18% of the country’s 4.3m adult population supported legalising.
The Greens’ call for legalisation is also at odds with Finland’s Centre Party, which is opposed to the endorsement of cannabis.
Both the Green League and the Centre Party sit in a five-member government coalition that also includes the Social Democrats, Left Alliance and Swedish People’s Party.
The Green league is keen to bring Finland into line with countries like Canada and Uruguay and a number of US states, where cannabis use has been legalised.
It was prohibited in the country in 1966. Finland became the first Nordic country to allow some form of cannabinoid therapeutics in 2008 with a limited and closely regulated group of multiple sclerosis sufferers now permitted to access cannabis in the form of Sativex.
Only 300 Medical Cannabis Patients
CBD may be prescribed for other conditions, which is decided on a case-by-case basis by the Finnish Medicines Agency, Fimea. But it is seen as a last resort if the patient has not responded to other treatment and prescriptions can only be issued by a neurological expert.
As a result the number of prescriptions is still low, with the most recent figures showing only around 300 people currently permitted to use medical cannabis.
In 2019 a citizens initiative calling for the decriminalisation of cannabis for personal use received the 50,000-plus signatures needed to be looked at by the Finnish parliament in the current session, which ends in 2023. It is currently awaiting approval.
The Greens had previously advocated decriminalisation of cannabis possession, but had until last weekend avoided calling for full legalisation. This latest move has been championed by the party’s youth organisation after a similar motion brought forward at the League’s conference in 2020 failed to win approval.
Cannabis Would Be Regulated Like Tobacco
Under the Greens’ proposals, cannabis sales, manufacturing and taxation would be regulated similar to alcohol and tobacco. The initiative also calls for the removal of criminal convictions related to cannabis use from citizens’ personal data records, which can remain on police systems for many years.
In a blog post published on Monday, the Green League acknowledges that society’s approach to substance use so far hasn’t worked – hence the party’s advocacy for legalising cannabis.
The blog reads: “The Greens believe that punishing users has not helped, but the fact that those who need help and support have access to services has proven to reduce harm. When user crimes have been abandoned in other countries, it has been found that people dare to seek better treatment.
“With regard to the legal status of cannabis, there are more generally justified positions both for the Greens and among all Finns, both for and against.”
But not all politicians are behind the Greens’ motion.
Chairwoman of the Christian Democrats, Päivi Räsänen, who is a physician by training, said in a Tweet: “It’s alarming that the party carrying the minister of the interior’s portfolio is proposing that the use, possession and even sales of cannabis be legalised,” she tweeted. “Hasn’t Minister [of the Interior Maria] Ohisalo heard warnings about the consequences from the police administration she oversees?”
In a press release issued by Räsänen on Monday, she said cannabis is defined as a narcotic and its use carries a punishment under the legislation in many countries in Europe. She said Finland should hold fast to the punishments.
And Arto Sotonen, an MP from the National Coalition party, stated in a Tweet that the Greens have “lost touch with reality,” quoting an increase in marijuana-related accidents in Colorado in the US.
Much of the Greens language mirrors the arguments that the Liberal Party of Canada used when it called for legalisation in 2015.
These include noting that prohibition has failed in its objectives of protecting children and the public from cannabis use. It also says that the cost of policing prohibition is a waste of public resources and that legalisation itself can create jobs and open up tourism.