Finnish police have raided a business selling gardening equipment, on suspicion that the company is deliberately promoting the use of illegal drugs by selling equipment for the home cultivation of cannabis.
On its website, the business in question calls itself a gardening shop specialised in hydroponics. It has outlets in Helsinki, Turku, and Tampere.
According to its website, the shop sells hydroponic growing systems, fertilisers, measuring and timing devices, ventilation equipment, and grow lamps.
Police have also conducted a number of house searches at the homes of customers of the shops in question.
“We have found a significant amount of marijuana in the searches”, says Jari Luoto of the Tampere Police.
Discussions on online message boards also suggest that the clientele of the shops include home growers of cannabis.
Police have detained the key figures behind the enterprise. Luoto is not revealing how many people have been detained, but says that the number is “significant”. At least some of them have been remanded in custody on suspicion of promoting drug crime.
The retail operations of the company in question appear to have been suspended because of the police investigation. The Helsinki location was closed on Thursday, and the mobile telephones of the company were not on.
From the glass door of the shop it was apparent that nobody had collected the mail in some time. Police are not saying when the arrests were made.
Shards of glass and a brick can be seen on the floor of the front of the shop, the apparent aftermath of a break-in in December.
There are no precedents in Finnish legal history on whether or not selling gardening equipment can be construed as promoting drug crime.
“This investigation is a kind of precedent. The matter will undoubtedly be evaluated in various court instances”, Luoto predicts.
Luoto will not say why this particular business has been singled out; it is not the only shop in Finland that sells goods that can be used for the cultivation and use of cannabis.
“The investigation is in its early stages”, Luoto explains.
Matti Tolvanen, Professor of Criminal and Procedural Law at the University of Eastern Finland, has reservations about the police view that the sale of legal growing equipment would constitute the promotion of a drug crime.
Tolvanen feels that the issue hinges on whether or not the merchandise is intended exclusively for illegal purposes, or if the goods can also be used for lawful purposes.
The most common supplies for cultivating cannabis can also be used for growing legal plants.
Tolvanen says that another significant issue is whether or not the seller knows what the buyer plans to use the equipment for.
“The police are testing their boundaries. After all, selling knives is not illegal, even though they are used to commit homicides”, Tolvanen points out.