According to the Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other Drugs (Centralforbundet for Alkohol-och narkotikaupplysning), the proportion of the adult population in Sweden who have used the drug in the past 12 months increased from 2.5 percent to 3.6 percent between 2013 and 2017.

The study’s researchers described it as quite an increase and 2017 was the highest ever recorded number of cannabis users in Sweden.

In 2017, one man out of 20 (4.5%) and one woman out of 40 (2.5%) said they had used cannabis in the past 12 months. Mats Ramstedt (head of research at CAN) and one of its authors, stated that the 2013 proportions were 1.5% and 3.5%.

Among women, the increase in cannabis use is greatest among those aged between 50 and 49. For men, between the ages of 30 and 49.” Ramstedt stated that men between the ages of 17 and 29 are the most likely to have used cannabis in the past year, at 12.3 percent.

All of this is despite Sweden’s unsually strict zero tolerance policy towards drugs.

Sweden’s uncompromisingly harsh approach to cannabis

Sweden has had a long-standing zero tolerance policy regarding drug use. This means that there is no distinction between ‘hard’ or’soft’ drugs. The country has typically had one of the lowest cannabis consumption rates in Europe, though since the turn of the century the rate has risen and it is still the most common drug in Sweden. Amphetamines are also popular in the Nordic Nation, especially among the young.

In 2017, the country’s Medical Products Agency, Lakemedelsverket, made a landmark decision that allowed marijuana prescriptions for medical purposes. It is extremely difficult to get a prescription for this substance. They are often not written by doctors.

Sweden is continuning to enforce harsh punishments for drug use.Tthere have been numerous cases that have caught public attention.

A woman aged 79 years is held in prison for using cannabis

The elderly woman confessed that she owned the approximately 90 grams amphetamines, and 70 grams of cannabis found at her Gavle house.

The 79-year old woman said that she used cannabis and amphetamines to manage her pain. She described how painful it is all the time and how smoking cannabis helped her to relieve that pain.

The four-month sentence is in line with Sweden’s long-standing zero tolerance drugs policy, which makes no distinction between “hard” and “soft” drugs. This is a rare in a wealthy first world country. The Netherlands is a country known for its tolerance and relaxed approach to drugs. They even granted permits to be sold.

Court documents show that the woman could have been sentenced for six months, but she was sentenced to a shorter sentence due to her advanced age. The woman did not intend to cause any harm and was only trying to relieve her pain. This is a sad but not surprising case. Sweden has made an effort to uphold its zero tolerance policy. After being arrested for illegal drug use, Snoop Dogg, an iconic rapper, vowed never to return to Sweden. Snoop Dogg’s love for cannabis is well-known.

There are a plenty of stories like these. But as cannabis continues to grow and legalised elsewhere, will Sweden eventually follow suit? Or will it double down its policies as it has done before.

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