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Friday's papers: Masks and IDs, cannabis farming, first snows on the way

One morning paper looks at the quandary of when and how to use a picture ID if you are wearing a mask.

A Finnish court has ruled that cultivation of cannabis plants is not automatically a crime. Image: Laura Hyyti / Yle

Does a protective face mask have to be removed when making a purchase in an alcohol retail shop? What about at the post office?

A reader of the Helsinki tabloid Iltalehti posed these questions about mask usage recommendations and the paper asked both the state retailer Alko and the postal service Posti what their policy is now.

So, if a customer is wearing a mask, will they be asked to remove it so they can be identified and their age can be verified?

Pekka Matikainen, Alko's service manager, told the paper that Alko recommends that customers use face masks when shopping in their outlets, especially in areas that are experiencing an acceleration or further spread of the coronavirus.

But, he added, "The Alcohol Act requires us to ensure that we do not sell alcoholic beverages to minors or spirits to those under 20 years of age. The seller must be able to verify the age of the customer, and it cannot be reliably done if the customer’s face is covered."

The word from Alko is that if a customer does not agree to move aside or remove their mask and their age cannot be ascertained, age-restricted products will not be sold to them.

Posti, as well, is requiring that customers uncover when identification is needed.

According to ‎Jarmo Ainasoja, Posti's head of exception management, says that it is recommended that customers needing to identify themselves briefly remove their masks, only touching the strings or ear loops holding it in place.

"In these situations safe distancing is maintained and and effort is made to take care of things quickly so that the customer can put their mask back in place as soon as possible," Ainasoja told Iltalehti.

More presidential powers

The farmers' union daily Maaseudun Tulevaisuus carries the results of a poll it commissioned, showing that close to half of Finns would be ready to increase the president's political power to deal with domestic crisis situations.

Although once a powerful position, today the Finnish president's role is largely restricted to co-managing foreign policy along with the government and any influence over domestic affairs is largely based on personal prestige.

However, this paper's fresh poll found that 45 percent of the public would give the president more domestic political power during a national crisis.

Older age groups are even more in favour of the idea, with well over half of those 45-54 and over the age of 65 ready grant the president increased powers. There is also a significant gap according to where people reside, with almost 60 percent of respondents in rural areas in favour of additional powers, but only a little over 40 percent in urban areas.

The exercise of presidential powers has been a subject of debate since the spring, when President Sauli Niinistö proposed the introduction of a high-level coordination group with emergency powers to deal with the coronavirus epidemic. Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) rejected the proposal.

Niinistö did, though, influence the preparation of the use of the government's Emergency Powers Act in March.

He said in July that he would continue to express his views on issues that do not fall directly within the president's remit.

The paper points out that a survey by the Municipal Sector Development Foundation, rated Niinistö as the most reliable communicator on coronavirus-related issues.

MT's survey was conducted by TNS Kantar Agri which polled 1,020 people on 9-14 October.

Green light for cannabis farming?

Helsingin Sanomat reports on a legal case in which the Court of Appeal of Eastern Finland ruled Wednesday that the cultivation of cannabis plants is not automatically a crime.

The defendant in the case, Hannu Hyvönen, was charged and convicted of drug and pharmaceutical law violations when police discovered his 18 square meter outdoor plot of cannabis plants in Iisalmi in 2017.

Hyvönen argued that he was not producing illicit drugs, but rather engaged in selective hemp breeding and seed production. According to the prosecutor, the explanation was not credible because Hyvönen did not have the necessary premises, permits or money for the operation.

The appeals court agreed, however, that there was no evidence he was growing the plants for use as drugs. It ordered the state to pay Hyvönen's legal costs with interest.

While still an open issue, the case may form the precedent that cannabis cultivation is an offense only if the authorities can prove that the plants were intended to be used as a drug or medicine.

First snows

Kuopio's Savon Sanomat writes that the first snows of the coming winter season are likely to be seen this coming weekend.

According to the Finnish Meteorological Institute, a low pressure area moving into the northwest late Friday night and Saturday morning will bring rain and snow, especially north of Rovaniemi. In eastern parts of the country, snowfall may be seen ever further south.

Snowfall measuring 5 to 20 centimetres in places is expected mainly in central Lapland.

There has already been some snow in Lapland this autumn, but the technical definition of “"first snow" has not yet been met. This means that at least one centimetre of snow cover has to be recorded in the morning at 9am in summer time, or at 8am in the winter.

Overall, rainy or snowy rainy weather is expected to linger until Monday.

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