The central framework for drug legislation in Finland is based on the Narcotics Act. The provisions for drug offences are laid down in Chapter 50 of the Penal Code. The use of drugs and the possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use constitute drug use offences that are punishable by a fine or a maximum of six months’ imprisonment. Prosecution and punishment can be waived if the offence is considered insignificant, or if the offender has sought treatment specified by the Decree of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. However, as problem drug users often commit multiple crimes, their prosecution is rarely waived in practice.
Drug offences include possession (whether for personal use or supply), manufacturing, growing, smuggling, selling and dealing. There is no specific offence of dealing or trafficking. The penalties for a drug offence range from a fine to a maximum of two years’ imprisonment, while an aggravated drug offence is punishable by 1-10 years’ imprisonment. Aggravating circumstances for a drug offence include the involvement of substances considered ‘very dangerous’, large quantities of drugs or considerable financial profit, or if the offender acts as a member of a group that has been organised for the express purpose of committing such an offence. In 2017, the Supreme Court established a precedent whereby the sentence in an aggravated drug offence can be reduced depending on the offender’s role in the crime.
In 2014, the Narcotics Act was amended to address both narcotics and ‘psychoactive substances banned from the consumer market’, otherwise known as new psychoactive substances. These substances are listed in a government decree following a defined procedure of evaluation, and unauthorised supply is classed as an offence endangering health and safety, punishable by up to one year in prison according to Chapter 44 of the Penal Code.
Drug law offence (DLO) data are the foundation for monitoring drug/related crime and are also a measure of law enforcement activity and drug markets dynamics; they may be used to inform policies on the implementation of drug laws and to improve strategies.
In 2016, Finland reported an increase in the total number of DLOs, which continued a rising trend observed over the previous decade. Approximately 7 out of 10 DLOs were drug use related and the data indicate a continuous increase in the proportion of these offences in recent years. This is attributed to improved control mechanisms, to the growing popularity of home-grown cannabis and the increase in its use, and to the increased smuggling of medicines.