And the Next Country to Legalize Marijuana is…
Where in the world can you legally get high? Well, members of the 4:20 club have more places to enjoy their buds than ever before in history. Marijuana has in many ways gone mainstream, and 4:20 is celebrated worldwide. In the US, public opinion polls show 53% support making marijuana legal for medical or recreational use, according to Pew Research.
In most countries, the possession remains illegal as a result of the agreement in the International Opium Convention (1925). However, many countries have decriminalized the possession of small quantities of cannabis. Although federal law is controlling, the government has chosen not to prosecute users operating in compliance with local medical and recreational marijuana laws.
As of 2017, Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Germany, India, Jamaica, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Uruguay, and some U.S. jurisdictions have the least restrictive cannabis laws, while China, France, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Norway, the Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam have the strictest cannabis laws.
That’s not the case in Lithuania where the parliament has almost unanimously voted to consider a legislative amendment that could legalize medical cannabis and potentially open the door for the medicinal use of other currently banned drugs.
Members of the Lithuanian parliament voted to consider an amendment on the 14th of November – to the country’s drug policy, put forward by MP Mykolas Majauskas on November 9. The amendment could allow patients to use cannabis for medical purposes.
A statement released by Majauskas, of the conservative Homeland Union party, revealed that the draft resolution he proposed was necessary to “allow the use of medical cannabis for treating severely ill people”. He also emphasized the need for cannabis access for patients who use “morphine, opioid-based medicines, on a daily basis, when they can take cannabis medicines that are significantly less harmful [instead]”.
He also emphasized that it is “the first time that a decision on such a sensitive issue enjoys broad public and political support”. During the November 14 vote, 92 Seimas members supported the consideration, one abstained, and none opposed.
The drug is currently designated as a List I drug, the highest classification category of Lithuanian’s narcotics law (the Law on the Control of Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances).
This implies that it is “prohibited for medical use because [it brings] about harmful consequences to human health”. Rather than reschedule cannabis to a lower List, the proposal seeks to remove the automatic ban on medical use for all List I drugs – including heroin, MDMA, and psilocybin.
If the amendment is approved, it would allow for the medicinal use of any listed drug, as long it passes rigorous safety and efficacy tests. The chair of the Seimas health committee, Agnė Širinskienė – who is also a member of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union party (LVŽS) – which Majauskas’ party is in opposition to – expressed support for the amendment after the November 14 vote. “I believe we will be able to ensure that Lithuanian patients achieve safe and effective scientific evidence-based medicinal products made from all the drugs [in List I],” Širinskienė said.
The Seimas must approve the amendment at a plenary debate on December 12 for the legislation to take place. Also, the change will require approval from the health minister, Aurėlijus Veryga, also of the LVŽS.
The health minister endorsed the decriminalization of cannabis possession and use earlier this year, arguing in favor of treatment of drug use rather than punishment. After being questioned on his position on medical cannabis, he deemed it to be “not a priority”, but later added, “if it were decided in the future to legalize [cannabis] for medicinal purposes, a very clear and strict mechanism should be put in place to prevent any abuse”.
Lithuania has currently criminalized cannabis, and possession of a small quantity can theoretically lead to a two-year prison sentence. Such harsh punishments for minor possession are not imposed in reality, however short sentences, fines, and other punitive measures take place.
The cultivation, even for personal use, can lead to imprisonment of up to five years. The recreational cannabis use remains prevalent in Lithuania, around one in 20 young adults (aged 15 – 34) claim to have used cannabis in the past year, as indicated by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
The proposed amendment would take effect in 2019 – if approved by the Seimas and the health minister. However, Mykolas Majauskas, has proposed that the date be brought forward in what appears to be mere confidence in his proposal. Who knows? Maybe Lithuanians will join the 4:20 club.