Sweden has some of the harshest cannabis laws in Europe, yet the Swedish government holds stocks in two of the largest marijuana companies in the world — Aurora Cannabis and Canopy Growth.
At the moment, many European countries are taking small but sure steps towards legalising cannabis. Will Sweden legalise marijuana as well? Let’s find out.
The legal status of cannabis in Sweden
The use, possession, processing and distribution of drugs (including cannabis) are criminal offences in Sweden. The penalty for breaking this law can vary from a fine to imprisonment of up to 18 years, depending on the severity of the crime and its aggravating circumstances.
The sort of drug and its amount are very important factors when determining the severity of a sentence. The Swedish law system does not consider cannabis a dangerous drug. As a result, the penalty for use and possession of small amounts of marijuana is typically settled outside of court in summary procedures.
Minor drug offences such as cannabis possession for personal use are punished with fines or imprisonment for up to six months, depending on the quantity. The possession of up to one gram of cannabis attracts a penalty of 30-day fines.
A day fine is a fine calculated according to the individual’s financial status. 30-day fines represent the individual’s income over 30 working days. This is a small fee by Swedish standards. To put things into perspective, the possession of up to 0.2 grams of cocaine results in 100-day fines.
The possession of up to 50 grams of cannabis is considered a minor drug offence in Sweden, and it’s usually settled through a summary procedure. The penalty for cannabis possession goes up according to the quantity, and it can go up to 150-day fines if the individual is caught with 50 grams of cannabis. The possession of anything above the 50 grams threshold is a normal drug offence and can end in imprisonment.
In 2017, 91 percent of all drug crimes reported in Sweden were use and possession charges. Old statistics show that cannabis was reported more often than any other illicit drug, showing up in more than 42 percent of the reported cases in 2010.
More recent statistics show that about 9.6 percent of young adults aged 17 to 34 have used cannabis in 2016, making it the most popular illicit drug in the country by a large margin.
Is medical marijuana legal in Sweden?
Sweden legalised medical marijuana in 2012 when the Swedish Medical Products Agency approved Sativex as a treatment option for multiple sclerosis.
However, one of the things that make the Swedish medical system stand out in Europe is that doctors can prescribe drugs that are not approved, albeit under special circumstances.
The Medical Products Agency can approve cannabis treatments on a case-by-case basis if the patient’s doctor recommends it. This allowed two individual patients to access medical marijuana treatments in Sweden in 2017.
CBD is not legal in Sweden, although it technically is
Unlike most European countries, Sweden has taken a harsh stance on cannabidiol (CBD). Up until 2019, CBD fell in a grey legal area because it wasn’t covered by any existing laws. In June 2019, Sweden’s Supreme Court decided that CBD products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) classify as narcotics and are thus illegal.
Even though the Swedes respect the EU-wide law supporting industrial hemp, and they do not consider hemp as a narcotic, they also stated that any product containing THC is a narcotic. Thus, all the preparations containing THC are covered by the Swedish narcotics laws.
Now, even though they’re exacted from hemp, not marijuana, most CBD products contain 0.1 to 0.2 percent THC, so they became illegal in Sweden.
However, the Supreme Court’s decision also specified that cannabidiol products that classify as medicine but don’t contain THC can be sold in Sweden if they’re licensed by the Medical Products Agency.
That decision is not very encouraging for cannabis entrepreneurs. The Swedish Medical Products Agency has banned at least eight companies that sold CBD oil as a dietary supplement since 2017, so getting a product approved by the agency might be a challenging task.
In conclusion, even though you can still find online stores shipping CBD products to Sweden, you’re most likely breaking the law if you buy from them.
Swedish government invests in cannabis
Even though Sweden has taken a harsh stance on CBD, its government doesn’t frown on everything related to the cannabis plant. And the Swedish government likes cannabis stocks so much that it bought stock in two Canadian cannabis corporations back in 2018.
A pension fund called AP7, which is run by the Swedish government, acquired shares of Aurora and Canopy Growth. The fund’s initial investment was 63 million Swedish kronor (~ $6.8 million). And the investment made sense. In 2019, the initial investment soared to a value of 100 million Swedish kronor.
Now, it’s unclear if the pension fund still owns the shares, especially since the cannabis stock market has been struggling in recent times. But, at the time, the trust fund’s financial advisors clearly believed that cannabis will be profitable, and they were right.
When will Sweden legalise marijuana?
Sweden will not legalise marijuana anytime soon. Despite the county’s more liberal attitudes on other matters, cannabis remains a taboo subject.
And the thing is, the majority of Sweden’s population doesn’t care about cannabis, so the government is not under pressure to do something about it. Quite the opposite. A recent poll showed that 83 percent of Swedes are currently against cannabis legalisation.
Sweden will most likely wait for its neighbours to legalise marijuana before taking any major steps in that direction. If its government sees that the legalisation process yielded net benefits for Denmark, Finland and Norway, it will probably consider making cannabis legal as well.