Georgian Orthodox Church halts gov’t bill on marijuana production
Objections raised by the Georgian Orthodox Church have stopped the government’s plans to pass a bill which would legalise the cultivation of marijuana for export purposes.
Chairman of the Parliament Irakli Kobakhidze told journalists on 16 September that the Georgian Dream political party would not rush to pass the bill and would first hold consultations with the Patriarchate.
Kobhakidze’s statement came in the wake of a Sunday mass service held in the Holy Trinity Cathedral, commonly known as Sameba, where Ilia II, the Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia, delivered a sermon.
• On 11 September the Georgian government proposed a bill to legalise the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal and cosmetic purposes for export. The bill was developed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Sociological surveys show that Ilia II is the most influential person in Georgia. He addressed the government saying:
“The government must take upon itself the responsibility of controlling the situation. The bill should not apply to the private sector otherwise we will lose control over the situation. What do we want such an economy for if we will lose the younger generation?!” the patriarch said.
Clerical leaders held a special conference on 12 September with the title ‘Narcopolicy in Georgia: Challenges and International Experience’.
“The legalisation of marijuana cultivation, the participation of the government [in this process], and its participation in the production and sale [of marijuana] is unacceptable because this process contains a slew of risks, including from an international security point of view,” reads the appeal that was put forward to the government at the end of the conference.
Influential clerical figure Metropolitan Shio Mujiri stated that the use of marijuana contradicts the principles of Orthodoxy and traditional family values.
It is also worth mentioning that, after the government introduced the bill on marijuana cultivation, clerics held two protest demonstrations.
What does the government intend to do?
The government and church will hold joint consultations on the issue of marijuana cultivation.
Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze told journalists that the aim of the bill is to ensure that the cannabis industry does not remain without regulation. Bakhtadze says that the government has prepared stern regulatory measures concerning marijuana production and that the cultivation of the plant will only be allowed for medicinal purposes.
Finance Minister Ivane Machavariani said on 15 September that the bill will help Georgia make it onto the growing international market. He further says that the government is expecting one billion lari [about USD 408 million] in revenue from the cultivation and sale of cannabis.