The Drugreporter video team helped Coalition I Can Live, a Lithuanian drug policy reform NGO to launch a media campaign for the decriminalisation of drug use. Watch the movie we produced about drug policies in Lithuania – and read this interview with Laura Bliujiene, a lawyer working for the NGO!
Drugreporter:A few weeks ago the Lithuanian parliament rejected a proposal to reform drug laws. Can you explain how the current drug laws sanction drug offenders and how this reform could change things?
Laura Bliujiene: As of January 2018, possession of any amount for personal use is a criminal offence and a prison sentence is applied. The amendments to the criminal code that had been proposed would have removed criminal punishment for possession of small amounts for own use, and the sanctions would have been moved from the criminal code into the administrative code. This would not have addressed the diversion from punishment to comprehensive help for people who use drugs but would have been a big step towards a more balanced and evidence-based drug policy in Lithuania.
Have you seen any negative impact of the 2017 restrictions in terms of how many people are punished for drug offences and the severity of the punishments they receive?
During 2017 1033 pre-trial investigations were launched, 605 of which were completed by sending them to court. The courts decided on as many as 848 convictions. This is quite a large number of people who have received criminal punishment for possession of small amounts with no intent to sell. It is simply redundant criminalisation, which limits the possibilities of law enforcement to effectively use resources for the clarification of more serious crimes.
When we visited Lithuania last year we produced video clips with celebrities who were speaking out against the criminalisation of drug users. You used these videos in your campaign to support decriminalisation. What was the public reception to these videos?
These videos were extremely positive! They broke the all time records on our Facebook. Even during all interviews with opinion makers and other well-known people in Lithuania we were very happy about their thoughts and understanding of the need to decriminalise. Several opinion leaders shared these videos on their social networks, so one video reached around 8000 views! We got very positive and supportive comments from the society.
Watch this video with English subtitles about Lithuanian drug policy reform!