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Some experts urging changes in marijuana laws

Support voiced by U.S. President Barack Obama for the legalisation of marijuana has stimulated debate in Finland. A number of experts think it realistic to open a discussion on decriminalising the use of cannabis in this country.

Kannabis-kasveja kasvamassa kukkalaatikossa.
According to police, marijuana cultivation is usually a small scale affair in Finland. Image: Mika Kanerva

Obama voiced his support for the legalisation of the drug in the states of Colorado and Washington in an interview in the New Yorker, published Sunday. Although he stated that he considers smoking pot a bad habit and a vice, he also said he does not think it is more dangerous than alcohol.

Finnish sociologist Jussi Perälä, who has studied drug markets, sees Obama's statement as a significant move in the debate.

"The USA is the number one country in the war on drugs, so if it begins legalising the use of marijuana, it will surely have a major effect on Europe," Perälä told Yle.

Perälä expressed the hope that there will be a debate in Finland on decriminalising the drug.

"Making marijuana legal in Finland is utopian, but at some stage something should happen about it. In Finland, harsh punishment can be meted out merely for the intention to use drugs," says Perälä.

He believes it would be important to decriminalise marijuana or reduce penalties for its use.

Homegrown increasingly common

The report "Finland Drug Situation 2012" by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction indicates that young adults in the 15-to-34-year age group are most likely to experiment with cannabis.

The volumes of hashish confiscated by authorities in Finland have varied in recent years. On the other hand, homegrown marijuana has become more common.

"This is a newer phenomenon. Instructions can be found on the Internet for growing marijuana and what is required can be ordered online, right up to the seeds," points out Tuukka Tammi, a special researcher at the National Institute for Health and Welfare THL.

According to Tammi, there are tens of thousands of home indoor nurseries where plants are grown.

"We have wanted some policy guidelines from law enforcement on how to approach this. There is the logic that milder treatment for home cultivation would mean a shift of activity away from professional criminals to users who do not support other forms of crime," notes Tammi.

Perälä explains that times have changed with the easy availability of growing equipment and technical development.

"Hashish has become more of the criminals' business," he adds..

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