Estonia is home to rocky beaches, old-growth forests and lakes, and it has some of the fastest Internet connections in the world. But Estonia offers more than its natural beauty and its high Internet speeds, it’s also home to some interesting cannabis laws.
As you tour Tallin’s medieval centre and visit some of Estonia’s stunning landscapes, you might wonder if you would get into trouble for smoking cannabis in this small northern European country.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the legal situation of cannabis in Estonia.
Drug laws in Estonia
Estonia’s Act on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and Precursors Thereof oversees the field of narcotics. According to the Act, unauthorised manufacture, acquisition, possession and consumption of narcotics and psychotropic substances for personal use in Estonia are punishable by a fine.
The value of the fine is determined by the police and can go up to €1,200. The police can also recommend administrative detention for up to 30 days. However, the legal proceedings for misdemeanours can be suspended for reasons of expediency.
Estonian law sees most of the acts of possession and consumption for personal use as misdemeanours, so they are only punishable by fines. However, illegal possession and drug dealing not intended for personal use are criminal offences, regardless of the drug type.
Illegal drug manufacturing, drug trafficking and the transport or delivery of narcotics drugs with the intent to supply are punishable by imprisonment. Those who are caught with small quantities of drugs but don’t intend to supply can be sentenced to up to three years of prison, while those who are caught with large quantities can receive sentences of up to 20 years of prison, depending on the exact quantity of drugs and other aggravating circumstances.
Being part of organised crime or involving minors in the drug trade are considered serious aggravating circumstances and bring harsher penalties.
As of 2011, drug-dependent offenders may be offered rehabilitation treatment as an alternative to prison if they’re sentenced to imprisonment for a period of up to two years and agree to undergo treatment.
Cannabis laws in Estonia
Estonia decriminalised cannabis for personal use in 2002. This means that consuming cannabis is no longer a crime, but a misdemeanour. As previously stated, according to Estonia’s current laws, this means that cannabis consumption is punishable by a fine or detention of up to 30 days.
Being in possession of up to 7.5 grams of dried cannabis is considered a misdemeanour.
The average fine for cannabis-related offences is €80 in Estonia. Only 10 to 20 percent of the cases involving cannabis-related misdemeanours result in detention, the rest are resolved with fines.
You might get detention if you’re high when the police catch you or if you are otherwise a nuisance to those around you. Consuming cannabis near schools or playgrounds might also attract detentions.
You are not allowed to consume cannabis in public. The police are not actively looking for cannabis users, but they will fine you if they get a sniff of your spliff. However, friendly police officers might let you off with a written warning if you’re a first offender and you have a small amount (usually under 2 grams) of cannabis on you.
Medical cannabis in Estonia
Estonia legalised medical cannabis back in 2005. However, only one patient benefitted from the country’s cannabis legislation between 2005 and 2016. The patient had been prescribed a cannabinoid-based medicine for cancer pain.
Estonia does not have a medical cannabis program. The government issues medical cannabis permits on a per-patient basis. This has resulted in an extensive and complicated process that involves the patient receiving approvals from the Ministry of Social Affairs and, in some cases, other ministerial departments.
According to the country’s current laws, patients can only access cannabis-based medicine containing synthetic forms of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Patients who want to get access to plant-based medicine have to get additional approvals from the State Agency of Medicines and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).
Cannabis in Estonian culture
Cannabis is the most used narcotic drug in Estonia. About 13.6 percent of young adults aged 15 to 34 admitted that they consumed cannabis in 2016.
However, in a country that has been struggling with alcoholism for a long time, cannabis consumption does not seem very concerning — quite the opposite, actually. A 2014 study showed that 67 percent of Estonians want to see cannabis regulated similar to tobacco, alcohol and medicinal products.
The issue of cannabis legalisation comes up from time to time in Estonian politics. Supporters of legalisation argue that cannabis is not more harmful than tobacco, so it makes no sense that cannabis users are persecuted whereas tobacco smokers go free.
They also argue that cannabis legalisation would be a chance to tackle some of the drug problems in Estonia and would put an end to the stigmatisation of marijuana users.
Opponents of legalisation argue that allowing people to smoke cannabis legally would only increase the number of drug addicts, which would ultimately increase the county’s spending in its efforts to treat addiction. They claim that legalisation would also cause trouble for the state’s lawmakers and law enforcement agencies alongside the added costs.
Will Estonia legalise cannabis in the future?
Now, since the country already decriminalised the personal consumption of cannabis, you might be wondering if Estonia is planning to legalise cannabis anytime soon. Well, that’s not likely to happen in the near future.
Even though cannabis legalisation is backed by NGOs and various support groups, Estonian lawmakers are not in a hurry to pass any laws regarding cannabis. And the reason is that cannabis is not a huge issue in Estonia.
For most people, cannabis is difficult to come by in Estonia, so not a lot of people consume it. Alcohol is the Estonian drug of choice, so lawmakers are now focusing on reducing the population’s alcohol consumption.
So, cannabis consumption will most likely remain decriminalised in Estonia, but it will not become legal soon.