Experts say cannabis could eventually be decriminalised
According to a fresh “Drugs in Finland 2020” study, experts on substance abuse expect the use of illegal drugs to increase, and the drug trade to become increasingly intertwined with organised crime in the coming years. At the same time, the prosecution of individual users of cannabis might end, although the use of cannabis would remain technically illegal.
The forecast study by the Police College of Finland examined the views of a number of experts in the field on how the drug situation in Finland might develop by 2020. This is the first such study to have been conducted in Finland.
“Such studies are also rare around the world”, says Tomi Lintonen, head of research at the Finnish Foundation for Alcohol Studies, one of the researchers behind the study.
Two out of three experts giving answers to the study say that it is likely that the use of designer drugs will increase considerably in Finland.
They say that the growth is largely the result of the ease with which new synthetic drugs are manufactured, and the difficulty in interfering with the trade. The experts do not believe that the recent designer drug law would reduce their availability on the illicit market.
Most of the experts also expect home-growing of cannabis to increase. The use of cocaine is also expected to grow, as well as that of pharmaceutical drugs for recreational purposes.
A clear majority of the experts believe that the use and possession of drugs that are now illegal will continue to be illegal in the coming years, but users of cannabis might be left unpunished in the future.
More than half of the respondents expect that there will be no prosecution for use or possession of cannabis in 2020.
A third of the respondents felt that such development would be desirable, because punishing cannabis users has not been seen to reduce the use of cannabis, but it has been found to promote the marginalisation of those affected.
A few of the respondents felt that in a Western country under the rule of law, people should not be punished for harming themselves.
Another third of respondents would like to keep the use of cannabis as a punishable offence. One rationale for this is that a low threshold of reacting to cannabis use would help maintain consciousness of the illegality of the activity.
Most of the experts predict that those convicted of a drug crime or another crime, such as theft, in which drug use was a factor, would be offered the option of treatment instead of a jail sentence.
This would be an option especially in cases in which the person in question has not been significantly involved in selling drugs or organised crime.
A majority also expect that coercive treatment will be an option for underage drug users.
In the study, a number of questions were submitted to the approximately 40 members of a the cooperative network on monitoring drugs and drug use. The experts represent a number of bodies, including the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), various government ministries, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), customs authorities, and the A Clinic Foundation.
The questions were put to the experts on three different occasions, from 2009 to 2011. The first time yielded 19 responses, the second brought 18 responses, and in the third there were nine responses.
Use of cannabis increases among young Finns (25.8.2010)
Appeals court confirms acquittal of grow-shop owners charged with promoting drug use (30.3.2012)
Several designer drugs to be classified as illegal (15.2.2012)
Changes in classification of designer drugs to be delayed (16.6.2011)