Despite its general progressive stance as a country, legal weed in Sweden is not a thing. Sweden is home to some of the strictest cannabis laws in Europe. I was a little bit surprised to learn of this, as the Scandinavian countries have a reputation for being ultra-progressive. Apparently this distaste for cannabis stretches beyond legality and into social disdain.
As a country, Sweden is dynamic, ahead of it’s time and wildly efficient, which may be the cause of their general distaste for weed. Usually, when researching the state of cannabis legalization there appears to be hope for the future, at least medicinally. However, this time I’m not so sure.
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Sweden’s Weed Laws
The cannabis laws in Sweden are strict, but the enforcement of the law seems to be what sets Sweden apart. Most countries still outlaw cannabis, but police are often not that worried about some people smoking a joint in a park, minding their business and enjoying the sunshine. In Sweden, the police are trained to spot someone under the influence of narcotics, and can search anyone suspicious. If they believe someone is under the influence they can make an arrest. No further proof is needed at that time.
The punishment for minor offenses can be up to 6 months in prison and a fine. This can go up to 10 years for more serious offenses. Users are almost always prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The Swedish police don’t appear to be familiar with the phrase turning a blind eye. At least not when it comes to cannabis.
Sweden’s Weed Use
Sweden has some of the lowest rates of cannabis usage in the Western World. It can certainly be said that their harsh stance on drugs is reducing usage.
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(higher value = higher usage)
Swedish Government Standpoint
The feeling from the Swedish government is very much a no-nonsense, no tolerance front towards drugs in general. In a United Nations Office on Drug Control (UNODC) drug policy document, it states:
“The proclaimed goal of a drug-free society no longer seemed to be an utopian objective, but a goal that was within reach“
Whether you think the above is a utopian objective, or belonging in a dystopian sci-fi novel, it’s a very ambitious objective. The idea is to reduce health inequalities in the population and to protect the public from abuse and addiction problems. Just reading that last sentence alone, you’d have a hard time disagreeing with it.
The Cannabis Climate Of France
There are a number of statistics sighted in this document informing us of the mortality rate amongst injecting drug users. The general feeling is that of cannabis cause and effect, the concept of the gateway drug. There are a number of government-subsidized services put in place to stop addiction early and to help those who already suffer from addiction. Though this is admirable and support for addicts is vital socially, it does seem to lump weed in with drugs like heroin, which can be problematic.
The overall government standpoint is basically “drugs are harmful to health and should not exist in a society that cares about the health of its citizens“.
The public opinion does not seem to be a far cry from that of the government. The feeling of the Swedish public appears to be that cannabis makes you lazy and stupid. The concept of the classic stoned loser, an out of date stereotype (remember Steve Jobs?). There also seems to be a good deal of public misinformation when it comes to the harm cannabis can do.
Regardless of this general public view, in 2017 Swedish cannabis use hit an all-time high with an increase from 2.5% of the population smoking in 2013 to 3.6% in 2017. Though this is still a small percentage of the population, it is a marked increase of almost 70%. Could this mean that the Swedish population is starting to realize that cannabis isn’t that scary after all?
First Step For Legal Medicinal Weed In Sweden
The future of legal weed in Sweden does not look good. Not even medicinally. There has been some progress though. In 2017 a patient was experimentally allowed medicinal cannabis. It took a significant amount of time for the patient in question to gain access, but they were eventually approved. The man in question has been in a wheelchair for most of his life and suffers from constant chronic pain. The patient had started illegally growing his own cannabis years earlier, as he discovered it was the only way to go about his life normally.
His home was raided by the police, and was convicted and sentenced. He was considered unfit to complete a prison sentence, so had to pay a substantial fine. This situation sparked controversy and debate in Sweden as to whether or not the use of cannabis should be allowed if it meant someone getting their life back.
Italy Weed Laws
Initially, the patient was forced to stop using cannabis, and in no time the chronic pain returned to an unbearable level. After a four year battle, the Swedish government was finally pressured into providing the patient with the medicinal cannabis he needed to live pain-free. He became the second person in Sweden to be legally prescribed medical cannabis.
For now, it is just one man who fought tooth and nail to live comfortably, but hopefully, this is a sign that the understanding of cannabis is changing in Sweden. Whether the understanding is changing or not, legal weed could soon be bordering Sweden.
Sweden’s Legal Green Neighbor
Although separated by a few miles of water at its closest point, we’re calling it neighboring anyway. Copenhagen in Denmark could be set to trial recreational cannabis soon. The plan is still a proposal at this stage, however, it was voted in favor by 44 out of the 55 city council representatives. Legal weed has never been this close to Sweden.
Although still illegal, Copenhagen also has a district that police often overlook marijuana use in. Christiania is known to be very cannabis-friendly and is only a few minutes drive from Malmö, the third most populous city in Sweden.