Activists petition Parliament to legalize cannabis (1)
Activists argue that Estonia should liberalize its policy towards cannabis.
A petition was handed over to the Parliament on Thursday that draws attention to the fact that while using cannabis for personal consumption is illegal in Estonia, the country is still number one in Europe in terms of drug-related deaths – in fact, it is fifth in the world, according to United Nations’ drug report. Most of the deaths occur due to high prevalence of fentanyl use – a potent and dangerous drug.
Anything related to drugs has been a taboo subject in Estonia for long, due to stigma associated with drug users. Widespread myth is that only poverty-stricken junkies from the deprived areas consume hallucinogens, while there are actually many cases where reputable members of society were found to be addicts.
The stigmas have so far also delayed a normal and open debate in the society and possession and trading of all illegal substances carry harsh prison sentences, regardless of the endanger.
Although in most cases, first offenders receive a warning by police when caught smoking marijuana publicly, people found growing cannabis have been imprisoned for up to three years – the maximum sentence is five.
Thanks to the broad debate about legalization of marijuana in the Western world, it has finally also reached Estonia. For example, the majority of Americans today support legalizing recreational use of the drug and it will soon be legal to purchase in about half of the states. In Europe, it is in some form or another legal in the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and Czech Republic.
The activists, who started the petition that gathered thousands of signatures, including writer Kaur Kender and prominent LGBT activist Lisette Kampus, argue that it is time for Estonia to follow suit and open debate whether the recreational use of cannabis should be legalized. They said that enabling people to purchase marijuana, which is not considered life-threatening, would avoid drug deaths from the more dangerous stimulants.
Liberal Reform Party MP Eerik-Niiles Kross is one of the few who has responded so far and has called the Parliament to set up a special committee, to evaluate the current Estonian drug policy and see if it needs a shake-up. While some other MPs have privately expressed support for more liberal stance towards cannabis consumption, most are still very careful to admit it publicly.
ERR asked all 101 Estonian MPs about their standpoint, and no one said a clear “yes” to legalization, regardless of political right or left.
Most said that they are “cautious” about drug policy liberalization and “concerned” about all the drugs, and some cited personal experience of seeing someone going the downward spiral due to addiction, as the reason for opposition. Many admitted that they lack information on the pros and cons of legalizing cannabis or the actual nature of its consumption. Some said that the society is not ready yet to debate on the topics, while others said that ultimately, Estonia will become more liberal on marijuana use, “when the time is right”.