Democracy & Justice

Attempt To Partially Decriminalize Drugs In Lithuania Is Defeated, But Proponents Not Giving Up

On November 11, the Lithuanian Parliament debated decriminalizing the possession of small quantities of drugs, but the bill didn’t go through. Following another vote, it was returned to the Committee on Legal Affairs to prepare a new version.

by Human Rights Monitoring Institute

The bill seeking partial decriminalization proposed making liability for the possession of small quantities of drugs without intent to distribute fall under the Code of Administrative Offenses instead of the Criminal Code, and prescribing fines for the relevant criminal offenses. 61 MPs in attendance voted in favor of the bill, 58 voted against, and 7 abstained. According to the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, the majority of attending MPs must vote in favor of a bill to pass it into law, which means that the partial decriminalization bill fell short by 3 votes.

Opposition: decriminalization sends wrong message

During the parliamentary session, many opposition MPs expressed concerns that a law partially decriminalizing drugs would tell the public that we’re on the path to unrestricted drug use. MPs opposing the bill stressed the need to secure funding for addiction prevention programmes first before even considering decriminalizing bills. In addition, some MPs accused the bill’s drafters of lying about the inadequacy and failure of the current drug prevention regime.

After Parliament refused to approve the bill to decriminalize small quantities of drugs, various quotes wrongly attributed to Morgana Danielė (member of the Freedom Party and the initiator of the bill) were published on several online news sites. Controversial influencers also shared misleading statements, resulting in even more hostility from the members of the public who were opposed to the bill. The aforementioned news sites wrote: “Morgana Danielė: By refusing to allow the use of drugs, Parliament is destroying the lives of young people.” M. Danielė confirmed that the quote was fiction – what she actually said was "By refusing to adopt the decriminalization bill, Parliament chose to continue destroying the lives of young people.” According to the MP, she wanted to emphasize that the current punishments cripple the lives of young people and fail to create opportunities for a fulfilling future.

The future of the bill to decriminalize small quantities of drugs

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With MPs refusing to adopt the bill decriminalizing small quantities of drugs, the latter was returned to the Committee on Legal Affairs with instructions to prepare a new version of the law. Several members of Parliament hope that this new version will prove more palatable to a wider group of MPs. M. Danielė, the bill’s initiator, stated that she will continue educating both the public and the MPs on drug-related issues, and will try bring the arguments presented by Lithuanian doctors and lawyers (who agree that drug use is a matter of individual and private health, not criminal law, which is why decriminalizing the possession of small quantities is the first step to dealing with it) to the politicians’ attention.

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