Drug (Weed) Policy in Lithuania
Authors: Erika Pauliukeviciute & Michelle Feng
While most Western countries are adopting tolerant and human rights-based approaches to drug policies, Lithuania has decided to adopt a zero tolerance on drugs. In simple terms sharing a joint with friends is equal as distributing hard drugs. Fundamentally, the policy states that young people, particularly teenagers, will be arrested for tiny amounts of possession - less than a gram of weed. From the rational point of view, when decriminalization of drugs is happening among all economically strong countries, it looks as if Lithuania is going back to the medieval times. Do this policy bring any public value to the society?
In order to bring public value, the policy has to be successful. Based on Parsons and Sanderson assessment, they state that in order to achieve programmatic success the policy has to fulfill three criteria - effectiveness, efficiency and resilience (Parsons 2002; Sanderson 2002). Firstly, one of the objectives of Lithuania’s government, in order to achieve effectiveness, was to strengthen public health. (Lithuania report) However, according to the media headlines and sources from people at the festivals, Lithuania has faced a majority of deaths due to a drug overdose. Most of the festival organizers are trying to hide it from media reporters due to a harmful image. According to Bebbington and Mccourt in the article of a successful policy framework, they emphasize the negative consequences for countries which focus on failure. It gives the impression that the politicians and bureaucrats in all developing countries are incompetent or corrupt and there are no models of best practice or success (Bebbington and Mccourt 2007). Thus, Lithuania can relate to the negative consequences of strict drug policies but the government is still denying the fact of such consequence.
Secondly, another objective of this policy was to reduce the supply and demand for illicit drugs. Lithuania has invested 5 million euros to combat this issue (Lithuania Drug report). According to Moore in light of neoliberal accusations of government that it fails to deliver effective and accountable public services drains the public purse (Moore 1995). In my opinion, the government failed by establishing this policy in many different aspects. One of these aspects is the threat of young individuals future who happen to have criminal records because of young and ignorant decisions. The assessment of success is outcomes-based and judged by ‘the evidence’, if evidence is destroyed future careers, then the policy is a failure by all means.
Lastly, corresponding to European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug addiction, drug-related studies also prioritized according to the need for information - information on some of the indicators are outdated. (Lithuania report) In order to achieve appropriate outcomes, the policy needs to be based on scientific current research, practitioner perspectives, and political knowledge. The evidence-based policy movement has been a powerful force within government, strengthening the assumption that evaluation is the study of policy improvement. Integration of delivery, spending, and efficiency reflects success. (Barber 2007, pp. 249, 374) In order to achieve the objectives, the country must focus on evidence-based policy and learn from other successful countries.
Barber, M. 2007. Instruction to Deliver: Tony Blair, Public Services and the Challenge of Achieving Targets. London: Politico’s.
Bebbington, A. and W. McCourt (eds). 2007. Development Success: Statecraft in the South. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Sanderson, I. 2002. ‘Evaluation, Policy Learning and Evidence-based Policy-making’, Public Administration, 80, 1, 1–22.
Parsons, W. 2002. ’From Muddling Through To Muddling Up: Evidence Based Policy Making and the Modernization of British Government’, Public Policy and Administration, 17, 3, 43–60.
Moore, M.H. 1995. Creating Public Value: Strategic Management in Government. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (2017), Lithuania, Country Drug Report 2017, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg