Compared to other countries in Europe, Finland’s cannabis legislation, and its approach to illicit drugs in general, is considered regressive.
Cannabis is considered an illicit drug and is categorized as a narcotic in Finland. This means that under the country’s criminal code, the use, production, import, sale, and possession of cannabis are prohibited. In fact, it would seem that the country does not legally differentiate between the sale, possession, and cultivation of cannabis. Instead, it considers all of these offenses simply as “drug offenses.”
Meanwhile, the use of cannabis for medical purposes also requires approval from the National Agency for Medicines.
Law enforcement and penalties
The consumption of cannabis is punishable by up to six months in jail or a fine. If offenders are found with a small quantity of cannabis, or with a quantity considered for personal use, and without aggravating circumstances, this penalty may be waived.
In practice, the possession of up to 15 grams of weed is considered personal use and penalty is usually 10-20 day-fines – which is a fine based on the daily personal income of the offender.
The criminal procedure with regard to the personal use of cannabis was reformed in 2001 with the goal of relieving the courts of the burden related to personal use cases, expediting enforcement, and standardizing enforcement policies. Under the reformed procedure, authorities issue summary fines for personal use offenses.
Meanwhile, the possession of non-“personal use” amounts of cannabis and the sale and the cultivation of weed are considered simple drug offenses and are punishable by up to two years in prison or a fine. Aggravated drug offenses, on the other hand, will be brought to court and will be subjected to harsher penalties, such as one to 10 years’ imprisonment.
Finnish law stipulates that “aggravating circumstances” include large financial gains, involvement in organized crime, and possession of very large quantities of cannabis.
Availability of cannabis
The availability of cannabis in the country is also inconsistent. Most major imports come in the form of hashish all the way from Denmark, which is much closes to the region’s international drug trafficking routes. The good thing is that the country has its own domestic cultivation scene, which ensures that the country does not entirely depend on imports.
It should be noted, though, that Finland’s location in the cold northern part of Europe means that very limited types of cannabis plants can grow in the country. This also means that most growers here only grow for personal consumption and they mostly do it indoors.
Medical marijuana is legal in the country, but only in certain forms. It is still a long way from fully legalizing medical cannabis. The government passed a law in 2008 permitting the prescription of medical marijuana on a case-by-case basis. The only permitted form of medical cannabis then was Bedrocan, which was to be imported from the Netherlands. It was only prescribed as last resort, or when all other available treatment options have failed, and only for a small range of qualifying conditions, including multiple sclerosis, cancer pain, glaucoma, and spinal cord injury.
Sativex mouth spray was legally made available in May 2012, and Finland’s medical licensing agency Fimea, only approved it in December 2012. It then became legal for doctors to prescribe Sativex and to bypass the need to seek individual licenses for each patient.
Up until today, Finland has allowed an extremely limited group to use Sativex or Bedrocan and to buy them from any of the likewise very few apothecaries permitted to sell medical cannabis.