Finnish Cannabis Association Press release Oct. 8. 1997 please read and distribute further
On May 28 1997, the European Commission of Human Rights dealt a blow to freedom of expression in Finland when it ruled as inadmissible an application brought by Finnish Cannabis Association president Timo Larmela. The application was to overturn the refusal of Finnish justice authorities to grant the Finnish Cannabis Association legal recognition as a registered association. The Association applied for such registration soon after it was established in 1991. In 1993, Finland's Registry of Associations, which is part of the Ministry of Justice, turned down the application on the grounds that the purpose of the Finnish Cannabis Association - to influence intoxicant policy and legislation in Finland so that the use, acquisition and cultivation of cannabis for personal use would be legalized, violates the principles of public decency and morality, as it is "...contrary to the prevailing legal and moral concepts of our society..."
The Finnish Cannabis Association appealed the decision to Finland's supreme Administrative Court, which is the final instance of appeal concerning actions taken by state officials. The Supreme Administrative Court ruled against the Finnish Cannabis Association on September 16 1994: in its decision, the Court ruled that the aim to change prevailing social concepts and legislation does not, as such, violate public decency and morals,; however, the Court concluded that as the association's aim was "to encourage a habit detrimental to health and not yet common in Finland..." and as the use of cannabis is a criminal offence in Finland, the Court upheld the Ministry's decision. (The Finnish Cannabis Association has always maintained that while it wants to legalize cannabis, it does not want to encourage the use of any intoxicant. We're talking about the same court which in the 1980s ordered cuts in the Renny Harlin movie Born American, on the grounds that it might harm Finnish relations with a foreign power - i.e. the Soviet Union.)
It should be emphasized here that the non-registration of an association does not make it illegal. However, a non-registered association is not recognized as a legal entity, and as such works at a clear disadvantage compared with registered associations. The Finnish Cannabis Association functions essentially like any other organization, with our own office, bank account, telephone number, and Internet website. However, all of these have to be officially in the name of one of our members, and not the Association in its own right. A non-registered association is also not entitled to apply for a fund-raising permit. Therefore we are not allowed to ask our supporters to send donations to our bank account at Finland's Merita Bank, number 218618-11033.
Although the inconvenience resulting from non-registration is tolerable, the Finnish Cannabis Association sees the issue as one of basic civil liberties, and the Association's president Timo Larmela appealed the case to the European Commission of Human Rights, which registered the application on March 16 1995. The Commission decided in a ruling issued on May 28 1997 to refuse the application: in a 7-page decision, the Commission concluded that the refusal of the Finnish Supreme Administrative court was "not unreasonable". According to the Commission, "..the refusal of registration cannot be considered disproportionate to the aim pursued, since the applicant has not shown that it prevented any essential activity of the association. Therefore, the Commission considers that the refusal to register the association can be regarded as a necessary measure in a democratic society, having regard to the margin of appreciation States enjoy."
Although the decision of the European Commission of Human Rights was something of a setback for the Finnish Cannabis Association, we believe that it will prove a Pyrrhic victory for the forces of the Jihad on drugs. The whole process has served to underscore our long-held contention that cannabis prohibition and basic human rights are not compatible. The Association is considering submitting a new application for registration with slight changes in the by-laws, to underscore the fact that although we are in favour of legalizing cannabis, we do not seek to promote the use of any psychoactive substance.
On July 27, Tero Nieminen, a member of the Finnish Cannabis Association and moderate user of cannabis was interviewed on the current affairs programme A-Studio broadcast of Network 1 of Finnish public service television, YLE. The topic of the programme was the legal status and effects of cannabis. In the programme, Tero revealed that he uses home grown cannabis about twice a month, and that during the years that he has used cannabis, he has given up alcoholic beverages completely. Soon after the programme was aired, Tero was interrogated by police, his apartment was searched, and 16 hemp seeds and two pipes were confiscated. It now depends on the prosecuting authorities whether or not the case will go to trial. In the meantime, Tero was fired from his job at XXXXXXXXXX, a Finnish computer software company specializing in firewalls. According to the company's management, Tero's continued employment would significantly harm XXXXXXXXXX's business with vital customers. The Finnish Cannabis Association sees this as an important civil liberties issue, and has started a campaign to get Tero reinstated.