In 2019, the police recorded approximately 10,000 different drug-related offences. Drug use and the resulting harm constitute a multifaceted problem.
In addition to the police, social services, healthcare, schools and researchers are also wrestling with this problem. Drug use does not only affect the users themselves, but also a large number of their friends and family.
Drug use is the most common type of offence
Drug-related offences are described in the Criminal Code. The most common types of drug-related offences are unlawful use of narcotics, narcotics offences and aggravated narcotics offences.
Most drug-related cases the police become aware of are cases of unlawful use of narcotics. Unlawful use of narcotics means that the offender possesses a small quantity of narcotics for personal use.
In cases of narcotics offences and aggravated narcotics offences, the offender traffics in the substances or engages in activities such as importing or growing drugs. The quantity of narcotics found is the most common deciding factor in whether the offence is considered aggravated or not.
Drug crime is typically concealed. Police become aware of offences through active surveillance or during other operations. For example, drug-related offences can be encountered during monitoring for drunk drivers.
What are the most common substances?
In Finland, the most common narcotic substances in use are cannabis and amphetamine along with its derivatives. Heroine’s share of the market has been low for some time and it has now been replaced by buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is used to treat opioid use. The substance is also regularly found on the black market, most commonly in the form of Subutex. In recent years, the use of cocaine has also increased.
Drug sales can be seen on the streets
So called pill sales – illicit sales of medicinal drugs – have become a familiar and regrettable occurrence in towns and cities. As the result of surveillance, police have confiscated drugs such as Rivotril – sometimes in large quantities. Typically, pill sales are conducted by sellers from abroad.
The drug trade makes use of information networks
In the last decade, the drug trade has partially moved off the streets and onto the web. Drug sales often take place on the so-called dark web. By doing so, those involved attempt to remain anonymous. In Finland, trade for drugs has taken place through encrypted Tor networks on platforms like the Silkkitie marketplace and a conversation forum named Sipulikanava.
The purpose of conducting drug sales online is commonly to remove the need for the seller and buyer to meet. Payments may be made in a virtual currency. Sometimes the seller and buyer agree on a sale via an encrypted instant messaging service and agree on a time and place for the meeting. Sometimes in these sales, the situation may have led to a robbery or a violent crime which led to the drug sale coming to the police’s attention.
The extremes of drug-related crime are far removed from each other
Drug-related crime is professional and often organised. At one extreme are the professional criminals profiting from the activity and, at the other, the users suffering from situations of multiple deprivation. Between these two, there are many different levels. The police are involved in active national and international cooperation to combat drug-related crime.
The police also want to see users treated
Drug use has a significant effect on public order and safety, and the police encounter it regularly in their daily duties as a result. The police do preemptive work to reduce drug use and its side effects.
This work is being done, for example, by the departments’ anchor teams, who work alongside other authorities. The police also want to see users treated.
The police discuss drug use with underage people who are detained for it for the first time. The police do not automatically issue a fine, instead considering warnings and the possibility of treatment. There is a great need to improve the availability and timeliness of various care services.
Drug-related offences can be punished with fines or imprisonment:
- The punishment for unlawful use of narcotics may be a fine or a maximum of six months of imprisonment.
- The punishment for a narcotics offence is a fine or a maximum of two years of imprisonment.
- The punishment for an aggravated narcotics offence is a minimum of one and a maximum of ten years of imprisonment.