Lithuania is a country that amazes its visitors with medieval towns, beautiful natural scenery and rich beer culture. But Lithuania is not a big fan of cannabis, even when that cannabis contains only trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and can be qualified as hemp.
But even though Lithuania was one of the last EU countries to legalise hemp for industrial use, the country is home to some interesting cannabis laws.
As a tourist or while admiring Lithuania’s natural parks or legendary Hill of Crosses, you might be wondering if you could or would get in legal trouble for lighting a spliff. Let’s take a closer look at the legal situation of cannabis in Lithuania.
Drug laws in Lithuania
Even though there’s no mention of drug decriminalisation in Lithuania’s legal framework, the country’s current laws are similar to those of other European states that have fully or partially decriminalised drug use.
Drug consumption is considered an administrative offence and is punishable by a fine of €30 to €150 for first-offenders. The court may also order participation in a rehabilitative program.
Since January 2017, the procurement and possession of small amounts of drugs with no intent to distribute has been relegated to a misdemeanour that’s punishable by community service or non-prison incarceration of 10 to 45 days.
Procuring and possessing more drugs than what’s defined as a small amount is a criminal offence punishable by up to two years of imprisonment or a fine of up to €19,000, depending on the circumstances.
Lithuania classifies drugs in four schedules, depending on their potentially harmful effects, the dangers they pose to human health and more similar criteria. The quantity of drugs that classifies as a ‘small amount’ is different for drugs that belong to different schedules.
Lithuanian law makes a clear distinction between personal use and intent to sell. Drug traffickers may be sentenced to anywhere from two to 15 years, depending on the type of drug they’re peddling, the quantity of drugs involved and aggravating circumstances, such as the involvement of minors in the drug trafficking process or being a member of an organised crime group.
Despite the fact that the laws regarding personal use and possession might seem friendly toward drug users, it’s worth noting that the Lithuanian drug laws suffered some amendments over time.
Even though the laws themselves are not too strict and recommend suspended or administrative sentences for first-offenders and those who possess drugs for personal use, the amendments often go against those laws and lead to harsher sentences.
Cannabis in Lithuania
Cannabis is the most popular illicit drug in Lithuania, with over 6 percent of the population aged 15 to 34 admitting to having used cannabis in 2017. The state authorities consider Lithuania a transit country for cannabis because most of it is brought to Lithuania from the Netherlands on its way to Russia.
Over the years, several cannabis support groups have called for cannabis legalisation or for milder punishment for cannabis-related offences.
One notable protest took place in front of the Lithuanian Parliament on the 20th of April (4/20), 2016. The protest was led by an organisation called Green Ring Society that wanted to involve the public in an open discussion about marijuana.
Instead of talking to the protesters, Lithuanian prosecutors targeted them for violating the public interest. Nevertheless, the protest attracted the public’s attention to this problem, and several other protests followed.
Another notable demonstration took place in December 2017, after Lithuania introduced some legal amendments that banned suspended sentences. The protesters said that the amendments would send young people who consume marijuana to prison where they would have to share cells with actual criminals, which wouldn’t be helpful.
One of the problems protesters had with the amendments was that they do not make a distinction between selling marijuana to several people and sharing a spliff with a friend. So, young people who consume marijuana could receive the same sentences as major drug traffickers.
However, prosecutors argued that isolated situations such as sharing a joint would be eligible for some provisions in the Criminal Code which would allow the offenders to receive milder punishments.
Hemp in Lithuania
Lithuania was the last EU member state to legalise hemp for industrial use and passed a law that came into effect in 2014. Thanks to the plant’s profitability, a lot of farmers started growing it as soon as it became legal, and they planted 1,064 hectares of hemp in 2014.
In 2018, there were already more than 1,500 hectares of hemp in the country, with even more being planted each following year.
Medical cannabis in Lithuania
Lithuania legalised medical cannabis on the 1st of May, 2019. The legal framework allows Lithuanians to use cannabis and cannabis-related substances for health care as long as they are ingredients of a registered medical product. However, cultivating cannabis that has a THC concentration of over 0.2 percent is still forbidden, so there’s no local production.
Lithuanian companies can manufacture, import, export, and sell medicinal cannabis products after obtaining a licence. Companies have to prove they have suitable storing facilities, appoint a pharmacist to be in charge of the facilities and fulfil a requirement of good repute.
The State Medicines Control Agency issues medical cannabis licences. Companies that apply for a licence have to present documents regarding the manufacturing, extraction, producing capacity, product composition and more.
Hospitals and other healthcare establishments don’t need special licences to distribute the products to their patients. However, they can only purchase the products with a doctor’s prescription.
Lithuanian medical patients can only access cannabis treatments if they have a valid doctor’s prescription. Only patients who suffer from various types of cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis (MS) and HIV/AIDS can get a prescription.
The future of cannabis in Lithuania
In the past six years, Lithuania went from not having hemp crops to being one of the EU’s leading hemp producers, so it’s difficult to predict what the future of cannabis could look like for the small Baltic country.
However, one thing is certain — there’s still plenty of progress to be made in regards to cannabis legislation.
For the moment, it seems that Lithuania could improve its medical cannabis program and make it more comprehensive, and it could also try to reduce or offer alternative punishments for those accused of minor cannabis-related crimes.