July 12, 2018 Print

After the 2017 election in Lithuania, the country saw an increased crackdown on the use of drugs. Being caught with a small amount of marijuana among friends can lead to a distribution charge and 2–8 years of imprisonment. Vilnius Students for Liberty (Vilnius SFL) is looking to change public opinion concerning Lithuania’s drug policy through an educational campaign. At its peak, the campaign received over 100 thousand views on social media.

“We aimed to question the criminalized market and present the current policies and failures of the status quo,” said Gabriele Pauliukaitė, director of Vilnius SFL. “The government of Lithuania is continuing to be strict on regulations and continues strict policies on drug consumption and distribution. Currently, there is an ongoing debate between the public and decision-makers on decriminalization and legalization of the individual consumption for cannabis. We contributed by creating information about drug consumption and policies, and we suggested liberalization as a way to overcome this problem instead of ignoring the fact that a world without drugs simply does not exist.”

Vilnius SFL’s campaign features graphs, images, a video, and articles that provide information about drugs — tobacco, LSD, alcohol, marijuana, and heroin — as well as policy prescriptions. According to their data, 50 to 100 thousand Lithuanians have been exposed to light drugs — mostly cannabis — at least once. In 2015, there were 2,524 drug law offences, with 1,721 drug law offenders. Of those offences, 70 percent were use or possession charges.

“We produced the first video in the country about drug policies and the failures of the status quo,” continued Pauliukaitė. “This was greatly supported by experts on social media and was recognized by ones who are working in this area. Second, we and other NGOs pushed media attitude toward drug topics away from stigmatization. Also, most importantly, we started a discussion about cannabis markets in the country during our event.”

Vilnius Students For Liberty’s video on Lithuanian drug policy.

Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, has a growing nightlife scene with numerous pubs and clubs. Lithuania recently developed a strong techno music scene, which led to an increase in drug use. Because of their illegality, there is little information on substance usage and the harm that can arise from mixing substances. Vilnius SFL hosted a panel that 50 attended, and the audience was made up of students or owners of small businesses working with cannabis products or night entertainment.

“We helped local nightclubs since they are stigmatized as a place for drug users,” said Pauliukaitė. “We educated students about policies and how it affects them personally. Also, we helped unite all stakeholders working in this area to promote this topic together under one campaign umbrella. We believe that providing reliable information is important for anyone to make decisions to use or not use a certain substance. We don't promote the usage of drugs; we want to educate people about drugs and help them to calculate risks if they take them. Also, we aimed to help local businesses — pubs, nightclubs — mitigate possible risks.”