After a nearly unanimous vote in Parliament Tuesday to consider a change in the country’s drug policy, Lithuania looks poised to usher in medical marijuana. This potential lifeline for patients is headed for debate on Dec. 12, and if the latest show of support is any indication, the shift in attitude could lead to a new era of medicine for the country.
Cannabis is currently a List 1 Substance in Lithuania, alongside drugs like cocaine, heroin, methadone, morphine, and opium — narcotic drugs with “addictive properties, presenting a serious risk of abuse.” Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is listed as a psychotropic substance having “very little or no therapeutic value.” If this next step successfully advances marijuana as medicine, the country will be significantly closer to changing regulations to allow for the medical application of any “List 1 Substance,” provided there is scientific evidence to support its use.
In an effort to learn more about the situation, Marijuana.com contacted Member of Parliament Mykolas Majauskas, the Lithuanian politician behind the medical marijuana movement.
(Marijuana.com) What was the catalyst for potentially changing the classification of cannabis for medical use?
(MP Majauskas) Far from being a political strategy, the initiative came from people terminally ill with cancer.
I received many stories from patients and their relatives [who are] illegally supplying themselves with cannabis oil, a known [treatment] for after chemotherapy. I think it was crucial for them to speak about their situation publicly.
Another strong argument was Germany’s and Poland’s decision to legalize medical cannabis this year. We pulled all arguments, and jointly with the patient association, initiated discussions to allow medical cannabis in Lithuania.
Is the next step in this process waiting for the debate on Dec. 12?
Parliamentary hearings will take place in the health care committee over the next few weeks. The Minister of Health, together with his fellow party members, opted for the new law take effect starting in 2019. However, we will push for it to be implemented sooner.
The proposed amendment to “Pharmacy Law” will allow doctors to prescribe medicine that contains cannabis in their composition. However, the drug must be registered in Europe and must have proven clinical research of its effects.
I take this as a first small step, but a significant one.
Can you prognosticate what a medical cannabis system would look like in the future?
In the longer term, I am confident we will be growing cannabis, producing food supplements, conducting clinical research, and making the best possible medicine for our patients. For the time being, we expect to import registered pharmaceuticals from other EU countries, just as many other countries do.
How confident are you that the rescheduling of marijuana will be successful?
The proposed law received unanimous Parliamentary support during the first stage hearings. There are two more stages to go and I am confident it will be successful, given such broad political and community support.
Based on this support, do you ever see a time when recreational marijuana might be legal in Lithuania?
Yes, but that will take many years. Right now, our focus is to legalize medical cannabis and decriminalize small quantities for recreational use.
Why is Lithuania’s government seemingly ready for this change?
It comes down not to the government or Parliament, but to the ordinary people who were strong and united bringing up the issue. This time, it was the patients who told their stories that no one dared to argue.