Is Marijuana Legal in Finland?
Marijuana laws in Finland aren’t quite as slack as they are in some other countries like Amsterdam, but the Finnish government has taken steps in recent years to relax some areas of their cannabis policies. As a traveler, it’s important to know the current laws.
Though not completely banned in the country, marijuana is by no means fully legalized in Finland either. In 2008, after years of prohibition, the country made the progressive choice to allow for cannabis to be prescribed medically.
However, unlike the United States, where doctors can prescribe cannabis as a treatment for all kinds of ailments, it is much more difficult to get a prescription for cannabis in a country with such strict drug laws as Finland has. Though there are many high ranking officials who have come out in support of medical marijuana use, its use is still met with contempt by many of the bureaucrats working in health care. Medical marijuana is approved for use only when it has been proven that commonly accepted medications have effectively failed to help the patient.
As a consequence, there are very few people in the country who are legally allowed to possess and use the plant.
Getting caught smoking in public will land the offender a fine. That’s not so bad, but the downside is that it gives police a reason to search the homes of anyone caught smoking or in possession of any plants, growing materials, paraphernalia, or anything else that might give them reasonable suspicion of illegal activities. Those offenses can add up quickly, and, depending on what police find in the home, the small fine for possession can suddenly turn into a large fine, possible jail time, and probation.
Due to the stiffness of international drug laws, it’s not at all advisable to travel into the country with marijuana, even with a medical prescription from home, unless the transport has somehow been officially approved by Finnish authorities beforehand. Just don’t do it.
Marijuana cultivation, regardless of the size and scope of the operation, is automatically categorized as production, which is a very serious offense in Finland. This carries with it much more severe penalties than mere possession.
The distribution of marijuana is still very much a crime, though unlike cultivation, the severity of the punishment varies depending on the amounts involved.
Finnish dealers caught with smaller amounts may get off with a fine as a slap on the wrist, while repeat offenders or those with a larger amount on them may be facing sentences carrying jail time.
Oddly enough, the possession and sale of cannabis seeds are legal in Finland, and there are many head shops that operate freely and legally selling pipes and other paraphernalia. Sales are restricted, however, and they may only be purchased by those over the age of 18. Other hemp products such as soaps, shampoos, and ropes can be bought and sold freely.
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Cannabis laws in Finland aren't quite as slack as they are in some other countries but the government has taken steps in recent years to relax them.
Cannabis in Finland – Laws, Use, and History
Finnish cannabis laws are relatively tough, and even medical cannabis isn’t widely available. However, small quantities for personal use have been decriminalised, and the youth wings of Finland’s political parties are pushing to fully legalise recreational cannabis. In 2018, efforts were also made to develop CBD products for medical use.
- CBD Products
- Recreational cannabis
- Medicinal cannabis
Cannabis laws in Finland
Can you possess and use cannabis in Finland?
Finland’s Narcotics Act states that use or possession of any drugs (including cannabis) is a criminal offence. It also recommends a punishment of a fine or up to six months in prison.
If the quantity of cannabis is regarded as ‘insignificant’ then the punishment may be waived. This is also the case if the offender chooses to accept treatment (as outlined by the Decree of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health). Repeat offenders are unlikely to have their prosecution waived.
An aggravated drugs offence can receive a prison sentence of up to 10 years. ‘Aggravating circumstances’ include:
- Substances regarded as dangerous
- Large quantities of the drug
- Significant financial profit
- Operating as part of an organised drugs group
In 2017, Finland’s Supreme Court ruled that a sentence for an aggravated drug offence could be reduced, depending on the nature of the offender’s role in the crime.
Can you sell cannabis in Finland?
Finland is unusual in that the law doesn’t differentiate explicitly between the sale and possession of cannabis. As such, there’s no separate law for sale or trafficking.
If the offender is caught trying to sell a significant amount of cannabis, the sentence is likely to be harsher – as much as ten years in prison. Smaller amounts will receive a lesser sentence, and if it’s particularly low, the offender might only get a fine.
Cannabis isn’t consistently available for sale in Finland; as most imports arrive from Denmark via other international drug trafficking routes. However, there is a small-scale level of domestic cultivation, and this seems to be on the rise.
Can you grow cannabis in Finland?
Finland’s Narcotics Act states that the cultivation of cannabis is illegal. This means that you’re not permitted to grow it in your home under any circumstances. Despite this, some Finnish people still choose to take the risk.
The journal European Addiction Research found that Finnish growers prefer indoor cultivation, which makes sense given the cold climate. They typically harvest the plants for their own personal use. Additionally, Finnish people are twice as likely to grow cannabis for medical use than their neighbours, the Danish.
While personal cultivation is illegal, commercial production is not (though it requires permission). Many Finnish enterprises grow hemp in the country, and cannabis for medical purposes.
Is CBD legal in Finland?
CBD is legal in Finland as long as it doesn’t contain high enough levels of THC (the substance responsible for the ‘high’) to be labelled as a psychoactive drug. As such, you can purchase CBD-based products freely in health stores and online.
Can cannabis seeds be sent to Finland?
It’s legal to send cannabis seeds to Finland, and they can be purchased without fear of prosecution. However, as cultivation is illegal, they cannot be used to grow plants.
Medicinal cannabis in Finland
In 2008, the Finnish government passed a law, permitting the use of medicinal cannabis. This was specifically Bedrocan herbal cannabis from the Netherlands. A decade later, and medicinal cannabis access is still limited. As it stands at present, only Sativex (an oromucosal spray) is available on prescription, for patients with MS.
CBD may be prescribed for other conditions, but this is decided on a case-by-case basis by the Finnish Medicines Agency (FIMEA). Even when medicinal cannabis is available, it’s hard to obtain a prescription. They can only be issued by a neurological expert (or doctors working in a neurological clinic), and are viewed as a ‘last-resort’ if the patient hasn’t responded to other forms of medication.
Medicinal cannabis is also viewed negatively by many people living in Finland. One patient in his 60s told Yle: “I asked my doctor for medical marijuana and he nearly fell out of his chair. It was as if I had raised some kind of immense taboo. And he was a fairly young doctor, so my impression is that the topic is not well studied in medical school here.”
Additionally, medical cannabis products are expensive. Sativex is reportedly as much as EUR 650 for three spray bottles, each containing just 10ml. Home cultivation is considerably cheaper, which may explain why more people in Finland are risking prosecution to grow it privately.
Although the country’s medical cannabis programme has been slow to get going, numbers of patients receiving the treatment are increasing.
Industrial hemp in Finland
Despite the cold northern European climate, Finland has a long history of cultivating hemp. By the 20th century, however, the hemp industry was in decline. Flax and cotton (both less labour-intensive) were favoured by farmers, and increasingly negative perceptions reduced hemp’s cultivation to almost nothing.
Unlike many other countries, Finland never passed a specific law banning hemp production. This meant that cultivation never fully disappeared, especially in rural areas. The 1990s saw a revival in the industry, and since then, hemp has become a vital part of the country’s economy again.
Political parties and cannabis
Most of Finland’s main political parties; the National Coalition Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Swedish People’s Party and the Christian Democrats, do not want to see cannabis legalised; though many support its use for medical purposes.
However, the youth wings of the parties have an entirely different view. Suvi Makelainen, Chair of Centre Party Youth, comments: “It’s quite easy to avoid talking about drug policy. It’s easy to say, ‘I don’t want marijuana to be legalised’. But it’s more difficult to have a full discussion about it.”
All the major youth parties have met to discuss decriminalising cannabis for personal use. The National Coalition Party’s Youth Chairperson, Henrik Vuornos, says: “Worldwide, using cannabis is more popular with the youngsters than the older people, and I think younger people are also more connected around the world. People are looking at websites and reading magazines, following USA politics, where almost half the states have legalised cannabis.”
Good to know
If you are travelling to Finland (or are a resident of the country), it is useful to know the following:
- Despite Finland’s tough stance on cannabis use, 13.5% of young adults (15-34 years old) used it in 2016.
- Herbal cannabis was the most commonly seized drug (resin cannabis, or ‘hash’, was third).
- Generally speaking, the potency of cannabis in Finland is less than in other countries. The official figures found that most herbal cannabis contained 0.4% to 20% THC.
Finland takes a tough stance on cannabis use, despite its history of hemp production. Medicinal cannabis is available, but hard to obtain – here’s more info.