Finnish Newspapers' Positions on Drug Policy between 1993 and 2000

By Torronen, Jukka | Contemporary Drug Problems, April 1, 2004 | Go to article overview

Finnish Newspapers' Positions on Drug Policy between 1993 and 2000


Torronen, Jukka, Contemporary Drug Problems


According to David Garland (2001), two separate criminologies have evolved in Western countries since the end of the 1960s: a "criminology of the other" and a "criminology of the self." In the criminology of the self, state agencies seek to build alliances with non-state organizations with an understanding that crime control is in part beyond the reach of traditional state intervention. In drug policy, the needle-exchange programs, drug-harm-minimization efforts, and different kinds of preventive multi-agency network projects represent the criminology of the self. In this strategy, the control is focused on "criminogenic situations," "hot spots," and "hot products." The aim is to reduce harms and risks among drug users as well as to mobilize and harness the third sector and its "informal social control" to play its part in drug prevention (Garland, 2001: 127-131).

In the criminology of the other, on the contrary, the state adopts a punitive stance. In drug policy, "war on drugs" strategies using "moral panic" rhetoric, for example, represent the criminology of the other. In these policies, drugs and drug users are categorized as alien "others," as threats that need to be rooted out of our midst and to be punished with impressive ceremonies. Garland (2001, 131-138) describes these kinds of strategies as archaic. They imply a denial of the real problems in society, of the real effects of punishment on the targets, and of the limitations of administration. Instead, the general public is offered a cathartic sense that the state and the police are sovereign powers capable in every situation of quickly restoring law and order by repressive measures such as chasing down the offenders, locking them up in prison, and punishing them.

In Finland, drug policy from the 1960s till the 1990s was based on the criminology of the other. In many European countries, such as the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain, drug policy has been more tolerant and been based more on "criminology of the self techniques. Furthermore, AIDS led many European states, including, for example, Belgium, France, Germany, and Switzerland, to introduce harmreduction approaches among drug users at the end of the 1980s (Berridge, 1999). In Finland these techniques were taken into consideration later, in the 1990s, when it was noticed that the use of hashish and amphetamine had increased, the availability of heroin had expanded, and the number of drug abusers had grown.

The authorities reacted to the new challenges of the drug situation in Finland by modernizing the drug legislation in 1994. They also constituted a committee on drug policy whose task was to outline a national drug policy strategy for the years from 1997 to 2001 (Hakkarainen, 1999). The pressure to modernize the drug legislation was increased by European integration; Finland had to modify its law on drug regulations to enable more efficient intervention in organized drug crime. On the other hand, the authorities wanted to make drug legislation favor treatment over punishment in cases where the drug crime was insignificant and concerned only illicit drug use (Hakkarainen, 1999).

The committee members who outlined the national drug policy strategy settled on the following recommendations: First of all, they encouraged the authorities to develop more target-specific education, to study new ways of identifying drug use, to take a more matter-of-fact stand on drug problems, and to set up-together with local actorscommunity projects that are preventive and that foster early intervention in the problems of young people. secondly, the committee urged the social and health care ministries and the public health sector to build a comprehensive drug treatment system (methadone treatment for opiate addicts, compulsory treatment for young addicts, treatment availability in jail, needle exchange programs, support services). In addition, the report obligated the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of justice, the Treasury, customs, and the police to develop new methods of investigation to uncover drug crimes, monitor the borders, and control street life. …

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