Marijuana decriminalized in Georgia
The Constitutional Court of Georgia is supporting the decriminalization of marijuana. The court regards the practice of instituting criminal proceedings for the use of marijuana as unconstitutional and said that it considers the abolishment of such practices necessary:
“Everyone has the right to choose their own method of relaxation, including the use of marijuana, as this is a personal, protected sphere of human life.”
This decision has already been called revolutionary. Until now, Georgian legislation called for criminal punishment for repeated and successive cases of marijuana use (a first violation called for administrative punishment).
This decision was passed by the Constitutional Court on the basis of a lawsuit filed by Georgian citizen Givi Shanidze. A criminal case was instituted against Shanidze for repeated marijuana use. He filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court, with the support of the political group Girchi. He protested Article 273 of the Criminal Code, according to which the use of marijuana without a medical prescription is punishable by law.
Georgia’s narcotics policy is one of the most repressive; public organizations and activists have demanded that changes be made to it for years.
One of the largest protests to take place in Tbilisi over the past few years happened on 10 June 2017 on Rustaveli Avenue. Participants demanded authorities to change the drug policy.
According to the Council of Europe’s 2015 report, every third prisoner in Georgia is serving a sentence due to a drug-related offense. The maintenance costs for drug offenders serving sentences for drug-related offenses totaled about USD 40 million while the Ministry of Health was allocated only USD 4.1 million for drug treatment and substitution therapy.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 36 503 people were tested for drug use in 2015. More than GEL 15 million from the budget was spent just on analyzing the urine of these people.
One of the main accusations is that Georgian authorities use this harsh drug policy as a weapon against their opposition, and as a significant resource to bolster the state’s income. According to experts, this is why Georgia has not been in a hurry to liberalize legislation. (The state received more than GEL 13 million between 2009 – 2012 from the payments of administrative violations. From 2013 to 2104 the state received GEL 11.1 million in the same way).
- 69% of the population favors the decriminalization of marijuana.
- 38% believe that administrative fines should not be implemented for smoking marijuana.
- 54% of the population believes that the use of injected drugs should not be criminalized and that the relevant article be repealed.
- 25.1% of the respondents expressed opposing views.
According to the same research 70% of respondents do not consider drug addicts to be criminals, and advocate for treatment, not imprisonment.