Finland’s government is set to debate decriminalizing the personal possession and cultivation of cannabis, following the submission of a petition with more than the 50,000 signatures required to prompt a parliamentary review.
The petition calls for decriminalizing the possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana and the cultivation of up to four plants. Since one plant produces about as much as would be allowed for personal possession, only one plant of the four could be dried at a time.
Most of the signatures were gathered in the last month or two via a social media campaign organized by the advocacy group Kasvua Kannabiksesta.
“People usually leave things to the last minute. We’ve been promoting this recently and getting our message out on social media,” said Janne Karvinen, one of the group’s organizers.
“There’s certainly more than 50,000—or even more than 100,000—people in Finland who support this issue.”
The petition argues that the country’s current approach to drugs neither benefits public health or law enforcement.
“Current policies have not succeeded in achieving their goal of harm reduction,” reads a translated outline of the petition.
“The prohibition on the use and possession of cannabis is mainly motivated by the creation of anti-drug [propaganda]. In practice, only a minority of users are randomly targeted by [prohibition]. Maintaining it wastes police resources and harms users.”
Kasvua Kannabiksesta points to Portugal as an example of an effective decriminalization model which has benefited public health and reduced drug-related deaths. They also argue that even minor criminal penalties on drug users have lasting consequences on people’s life opportunities which must be redressed.
But the group do not go so far as to call for outright legalization, as countries such as Canada and Uruguay have done.
“Decriminalization means the remove of the criminal record of an act that is illegal and punishable,” the proposal reads.
“In decriminalization, 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.”
Even a modest proposal such as this one does not mean Finnish lawmakers will necessarily pursue it, but at least now they will be compelled to discuss its relative merits.
As well as Portugal, Canada, and Uruguay, there are more and more successful models for decriminalization and legalization appearing all around the world. And not just for marijuana.
Scotland’s government recently unveiled plans to decriminalize drug possession, though power over drug policy still resides with the UK government at Westminster in London.
But even the UK government is opening up to the idea of softening their drug laws. A committee charged with investigating the issue released a report last month recommending decriminalization as part of a broader harm reduction approach to drugs.
Over in Mexico, a series of Supreme Court rulings have compelled lawmakers to decriminalize marijuana, but they have decided to go further than that with plans to establish a legal industry. One prominent lawmaker even called for the legalization of all drugs as the most effective way to counter the violence of drug cartels.