Finland – Smoke-in demo on Parliament steps for cannabis legalisation

Several hundred protest pot prohibition as 100 police look on 

“I am a criminal, but who is the victim?” The question was asked by Tarik Purho in front of the Finnish Parliament, along with three other demonstrators on Saturday afternoon.
      He also wondered where the other supporters of hemp legalisation were.
      Twenty minutes later, as if out of nowhere, more than 300 cannabis legalisation advocates appeared, in addition to 100 police officers, a number of police cars, mounted police, and dozens of photographers.
Purho was apparently fairly typical among the group. He grows cannabis at home in Mäntsälä for his personal use. Like many others, he compared marijuana with alcohol.
      “How often have you read in the papers about a guy who smokes a couple of joints and then throws his wife, kids, and dog off a balcony?” Purho asks in a deliberate thrust at Finland’s problems with alcohol abuse and violence.
      He feels that the most humiliating of all is that police are entitled to conduct house searches for cannabis.
Demonstrators came by bus from different parts of Finland. One of them was Jaakko Mäki from Tampere.
      He said that police had searched the bus already on the way to Helsinki. A moment later he was taken into a police car.
      For some reason the demonstrators had decided to fire up their joints at exactly 4:20 PM.
      This was the only aspect of precision in the event, unless one counts the police formation on the steps of Parliament.
In the cold and dark afternoon the line of a few dozen police officers was a strangely intimidating spectacle.
      “They’re looking for themselves”, was the paternal assessment of one of the police, commenting on the crowd that they were keeping in check.
      Another officer told a demonstrator that he was not giving any statements during working hours.
      He had been asked if alcohol was more dangerous than hemp.
      It remains a mystery what he might have answered while off duty.
Below the rows of police was a heterogenous group of people ranging in age from 15 to 50. Many were recreational users, but for some, the substance was medicinal.
      And of course there were plenty of speeches.
      None of the speakers saw anything dangerous about using cannabis, although one did say that it is not suitable for schizophrenics.
Some of the speakers were analytical and sensible, while others went on stoned rants.
      There were also parallel demonstrations. One young man declared that God hates gays, but he was shouted down by people calling him to stick to the subject at hand.
Some of the speeches were poignant. A medical user in a wheelchair that he gets comfort from cannabis, which, he said, keeps him from contemplating suicide all the time.
      Some of the speeches were actually very practical in nature. One speaker suggested that the police on the steps of Parliament be given snow shovels so that they might have something useful to do while they were there.
From time to time the police would come down from the steps to sniff whether or not it was a cigarette or a joint that someone was smoking.
      Eventually they noticed that people were lighting up all over the place.
      “Justice, justice, justice” was perhaps the most frequent slogan that was chanted.
      All in all three people were taken to the side by police.
      After being issued a small fine, they were allowed to rejoin the others.