Finland May Be Next Country To Decriminalize Marijuana

By Paul Gaita 10/31/19

Advocates hope the number of signees, as well as those that support the effort but did not sign, will push the government towards decriminalization.

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Finland's flag and a marijuana leaf

Finland's Parliament is reportedly considering the decriminalization of marijuana after more than 50,000 residents signed a petition to revise the country's current laws.

The proposal sought to remove criminal penalties for the possession of 25 grams or less of cannabis, as well as the cultivation of up to four plants, both for personal use; the organization behind the measure, Kasuva Kannabiksesta, cited the deleterious impact of marijuana convictions on Finnish citizens, who can be barred from education or work opportunities for minor convictions, as a primary factor behind the petition.

Advocates are hoping that the sheer number of signees, as well as those that support their efforts but did not sign the petition, will help to push the Finnish government towards ratifying decriminalization.

The People Of Finland Support Decriminalization

The petition's primary sponsor, activist Janne Karvinen, said that the majority of the 50,000 signatures were gained in its final month, which he credited to a strong social media push.

He also believed that the actual level of support for decriminalization in Finland was even greater than the number of signees. "There's certainly more than 50,000 – or even more than 100,000 – people in Finland who support this issue," he told, Yle, Finland's national public broadcasting company.

In addition to the aforementioned allowances for personal use, the petition would also call for new penalties for individuals who use marijuana in public areas where children are present.

Even Minor Drug Charges Impact Job Opportunities In The Country

In terms of the current policies regarding marijuana use, the petition's authors stated that they have done more harm than good by imposing severe penalties on cannabis users; individuals convicted of even minor drug charges can be barred from more than 60 job and educational opportunities.

It also noted the financial toll of employing police officers to make arrests on such charges and then processing individuals through the legal system.

By calling for decriminalization and not legalization, the petition's authors said that Finland would remain within the requirements of United Nations (UN) obligations, which do not allow member nations to regulate and sell cannabis. As the petition states, "The ban on an act may not be completely abolished or made legal, but the punishment for the act will be abolished or the act will be transformed into a mere offense, for example, a fine."

As Marijuana Moment noted, this language may address how Canada and Uruguay have remained within the UN regulations while still allowing for cannabis legalization.

Karvinen told Yle that he believed the Finnish Parliament would pass the initiatives called for in the petition on the grounds that members "do not want to oppose the benefits decriminalization would bring."

However, the newspaper also quoted Mika Luoma-aho, a researcher on drug policy from the University of Lapland, who opined that the government is most likely not ready to accept such a measure "But it will force a debate," said Luoma-aho. "I want to hear the discussion that quashes the initiative and then continue the dialogue on that basis.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.