Cannabis and CBD in Finland and other Scandinavian countries

Cannabis CBD en Helsinki, legalidad

Scandinavian countries are one of the strictest when it comes to cannabis policies. How does it work with CBD and are there any changes on the horizon like in other parties of Europe? To find out more, I discussed one anonymous source living in Finland.

Is CBD legal in Finland and if yes, in what forms and under what laws? What about other Scandinavian countries?

CBD is not legal for consumption, but it can be sold as cosmetics, odor bags etc. Most often people buy it in cosmetics product, in the form of creams or droplets. Edibles for consumption are not allowed. CBD flowers are being sold by a handful of shops in major cities (predominantly capital region). But they are not and cannot be marketed as to be smoked or vaporized. To my understanding the situation is pretty similar in other Scandinavian countries, although I’m not quite sure if CBD flowers are permitted.

Does it mean that it is legal to sell CBD rich flowers with less than 0.3% THC in Finland, but customers can’t consume them? 

The limit in Finland is 0.2% THC. It is unclear how the law should be interpreted, i.e., whether hemp products can be freely sold below the legal THC limit. Currently, it appears that the authorities do not object, but there are pending court cases where CBD flowers have been sold with a slight excess of the THC threshold, which has been a problem.

Are there many CBD shops in large cities? Do you have any idea for example how many are in central Helsinki? Dozens, hundreds?

To my knowledge there are fewer than ten in the whole country. Most of them are in Helsinki.

Do you have any estimates on how many Fins use CBD cannabis or products?

This is virtually impossible to estimate, there are no official statistics available on this. My guess is from a few thousand to a few tens of thousands.

What is the policy on “recreational” cannabis containing more THC in general in Finland and other Scandinavian countries?

By law, recreational “high THC” cannabis is punishable by fine even in small quantities. In practice (in the capital region) the possession of less than ten grams is fined without court involvement (similar to a minor traffic accident). In less populated areas the proceedings are more severe and there is normally a court session even when it comes to rather smaller (less than ten grams) possessions. Production and trade in several kilogram quantities can lead to imprisonment.

What is the prevalence of use of THC – is it rising or going down? How about youth?

High THC product (mainly flowers) consumption has been rising significantly over the past few decades. Especially among youth. I see the same trend continuing into the foreseeable future. What could be interesting is the fact that the flowers on the market are mostly homegrown in Finland. 

In Finland, there is no talk of legalizing cannabis, whether medicinal or recreational, at the highest political level.

Is medicinal cannabis legal in Scandinavia? How does it look in the books and how in practice? 

It is legal in all Scandinavian countries, but in none of them very prevalent. This is mainly due to doctors’ reluctancy to prescribe. It is notoriously difficult to get a prescription in Finland for practically any medical condition. And if you are lucky enough, then you normally get only Sativex spray. Although I’ve heard that Bedrocan flowers have been prescribed in some rare cases. Even in Denmark, where medicinal cannabis cultivation has been allowed since 2018 in unlimited quantities under a license, the number of prescriptions issued by doctors is very modest. This, again, is due to the doctors having very negative outlook on cannabis.

Doctors are reluctant to prescribe medical cannabis.

So can I get medical cannabis e.g. for chronic pain in your country? 

In theory, yes, but in practice it’s very difficult. 

Are there any trends we should be aware of? Is Finland and your neighbours going to legalize and regulate cannabis anytime soon or shall we expect movement into another direction?

There are no talks about legalizing either medical or recreational cannabis at the highest political level in Finland. It is very unlikely that Finland will be among the frontrunners in cannabis liberalization. In my estimation there would have to be changes to the EU and Schengen treaties before Finland would even consider legalizing recreational cannabis. A functional medicinal cannabis system similar to Germany’s in terms of prescriptions and production is also far away. The main hurdle is the doctors. In order for their attitudes to change I estimate there would have to be compelling evidence that cannabis works better than any other medication for a certain condition. I believe this to be the case in all Scandinavian countries.

The only positive development that I could see happening in Finland is the home cultivation of a few plants for personal consumption. Cannabis clubs, on the other hand, I don’t think they will be allowed in the foreseeable future. This, again, I believe is true for the other Scandinavian countries as well. With the only exception being Denmark which could follow Germany’s example in a few years.

Legal situation of CBD in Sweden and Norway

The regulatory framework around CBD in Sweden, as well as neighbouring Norway, is notably stringent. The Swedish Medical Products Agency (Läkemedelsverket) classifies CBD as a prescription drug, irrespective of its source –whether derived from hemp or cannabis. Their interpretation of European Union categorization is stringent, subjecting CBD to rigorous approval processes before it can be legally marketed as a food supplement or medicine. Only two CBD-based medications are approved for sale in Sweden: Epidyolex (CBD) and Sativex (CBD and THC). 

CBD oils lacking medical approval are prohibited from sale. When travelling with CBD, it is important to notice that Full Spectrum CBD oils often contain THC. CBD is treated as medicine, while THC is categorized as a narcotic. Oils containing both CBD and THC (even with low percentage) are considered narcotics, subject to legal ramifications. Also, CBD edibles fall under the jurisdiction of the Swedish Food Agency. While some European countries have adopted a more lenient approach to CBD, Sweden’s stance remains rooted in its stringent interpretation of regulations.

Neighboring Norway echoes Sweden’s approach to CBD. In Norway, CBD is primarily categorized as a medication. The sale and distribution of CBD products for general consumption is prohibited without specific authorization from the Norwegian Medicines Agency (Statens Legemiddelverk). This means that CBD products are largely inaccessible for the average consumer without explicit medical need.

Lukas Hurt
Cannabis activist : Journalist focusing on cannabis-related issues in Central Europe

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