On Sunday, the second day of a virtual party conference, the Greens approved various initiatives, including one calling on the government to declare a climate emergency. Another – potentially more controversial – one called for the legalisation of cannabis in Finland.
This would mean that the use, possession, manufacture and sale of the cannabis plant would be decriminalised, explained party secretary Veli Liikanen.
The initiative was approved by the narrowest possible majority, 183-181.
"The vote was close. It was decided by a margin of only two votes. That, of course, indicates that there are different positions on this policy within the Greens," Liikanen noted.
With the vote, the Greens became the first party in the Finnish Parliament to call for legalisation of marijuana.
The opposition National Coalition Party's youth wing made a similar call last year.
In 2019, Greens chair and interior minister Maria Ohisalo said that the use and possession of small quantities of illicit drugs should not be punishable.
Two potential interior ministers voted 'yes'
Ohisalo is beginning parental leave soon, and will be replaced as interior minister by one of the three deputy chairs elected on Saturday: MPs Hanna Holopainen, Atte Harjanne and Iiris Suomela.
Of these, the latter two voted in favour of legalisation. The Interior Ministry oversees Finland's police.
According to the initiative, criminal convictions for cannabis use should be scrubbed from citizens' personal data registers.
THL professor: "A significant statement"
Liikanen says that the current drug policy based on penalties and restrictions has not succeeded in reducing harm.
"The Greens have focused on shifting drug policy from punishment to harm reduction. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) have urged the same for years," he said.
"Of course, this is a significant statement when you consider that this is one of Finland's governing parties taking such a position," THL research professor Pekka Hakkarainen told Yle.
"Based on a 2018 survey, 18 percent of Finns thought that cannabis should be legally available. Personally, I have considered it more important that the criminalisation of use be abandoned. This would not just apply to cannabis, but to all substances, and we could better address problem use," said Hakkarainen.