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Cannabis use in Finland increasingly common, health watchdog says

Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they approve of the use of medicinal cannabis, according to a National Institute for Health and Welfare survey.

Mies käärii marihuanasätkää.
File photo of marijuana cigarette being rolled. Image: John Chapple / AOP

People in Finland are increasingly using or have at least tried cannabis, and attitudes about the drug have relaxed since the early 1990s, according to a survey by the National Institute for Health and Welfare, THL.

Every four years THL carries out a substance abuse survey. According to results collected in 2018, it has become increasingly common that people between the ages of 25-34 use - or have tried - recreational drugs.

Compared to results from a similar survey in 1992, the proportion of people who said they have at least experimented with cannabis has quadrupled. In 1992 some six percent of respondents said they'd tried cannabis, while in 2018 that figure jumped to 24 percent.

Some 45 percent of respondents in that age group in the 2018 survey said they have tried some kind of illegal drug at some point in their lives. People between the ages of 35-44 also increasingly admitted to having experimented with drugs at some point as well.

However, the situation appears to be more stable among the youngest group queried in the survey, which THL said was a good sign.

There was no marked increase in drug use by those between the ages of 15-25, compared to the last time the survey was carried out in 2014.

Cannabis most popular by far

The use of cannabis appears to be on a clear upswing, and was the most commonly-used illegal drug according to the survey. The use of prescription medication - for non-medicinal purposes - was the second-most commonly used group of drugs.

These drugs include sleeping aids and pain medications, according to THL.

Less than five percent of respondents said they had tried other recreational drugs, the most common of which were the stimulants amphetamines and ecstasy.

One-fifth support drug decriminalisation

The survey found that Finnish residents have become more liberal in their views on the use of cannabis as medication and on questions regarding the legal penalties for drug use in general.

Some 42 percent of respondents said that criminal punishment for cannabis use should be eliminated, while 20 percent said Finland should consider decriminalising all recreational drugs.

Around 72 percent of respondents said they approve of the use of medicinal cannabis. About 18 percent of respondents said that cannabis should be legally obtainable for any purpose, while 54 percent said that cannabis should only be obtainable for medicinal purposes.

The THL's substance abuse survey reached out to 3,229 Finnish residents between the ages of 15-69 in 2018.

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