Finns in demo for jailed MS patient

Demonstrators in Finland staged a protest on Monday evening in support of a Swedish multiple sclerosis patient who was sentenced to jail after growing cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Organizers said that 25 to 30 people gathered outside the Swedish embassy in Helsinki at 6pm to express their outrage at the decision by a Swedish court to jail 39-year-old Susanne Eriksson.

Sweden’s press and cultural attaché Anders Eriksson came out of the embassy to speak with the demonstrators, organizers said.

“The demonstrators presented their views of the unjustified sentence and Swedish law praxis in general, and also their worry for Susanne’s health in jail,” a spokesman for the group told The Local.

The organizers said that they would present their arguments to the embassy in written form later this week., an organization in favour of a more liberal approach to hemp and cannabis, said they were also planning to launch a campaign encouraging people to send cards and letters to Eriksson in prison.

Her cause has also been championed on social networking site Facebook, where a group called Susanne Eriksson är ingen skurk (‘Susanne Eriksson is no criminal’) has attracted almost 800 members.

On Sunday Eriksson travelled from the east coast to Hinseberg in central Sweden to begin serving a one-year sentence.

Hinseberg is a top security women’s prison reserved for inmates convicted of crimes of a particularly serious nature.

Eriksson was found guilty of possession and distribution of narcotics. The court also ruled that her belief in the healing properties of cannabis constituted an aggravating factor.

Speaking to The Local a few days before the beginning of her sentence, Eriksson said she could easily live without cannabis if push came to shove but that she was not going to pretend she did not believe it had helped alleviate the pain caused by her illness.

“My view on cannabis is that it relieves me of my pains and is a good medicine, something that has even been proved scientifically. Because of this I do not have the motivation to live a drug-free life, according to the court.”

While Eriksson admits giving cannabis to visitors, saying she was afraid that people would report her to the police if she turned them down, she insists she never sold it.

The cannabis plants confiscated by the police at Eriksson’s apartment had a combined weight, when dried, of one kilo. The court was not able to ascertain with any certainty what proportion of the plants could be used as a narcotic substance.

But a “balanced appraisal of the facts of the case” led the court to sentence both Eriksson and her personal assistant to one year in jail.

Many other countries apply lenient sentences to medical use of cannabis, or turn a blind eye altogether. The UK and Canada have even licensed the drug Sativex, a cannabis-based medicine which alleviates pain caused by MS.