Smoking cannabis in Georgia
It’s no longer a crime, if the amount used is under 70 grams. Pros and cons of the war against cannabis
The constitutional court of Georgia has decided to permit Georgia citizens to consume small amounts of marijuana. Its argument is that proving intent to distribute is impossible when the amount in question is less than 70 grams. Punishing possession and use of such a small quantity with a prison term is not humane, the court ruled.
At the same time, distribution of marijuana remains a criminal offense, as does the purchase of it for personal use. Decriminalizing the latter may be the next move.
Until now, the Georgian law punished first-time use of marijuana with a fine of GEL 500 [about 300 USD], while repeated offense incurred jail time. Repeat users got up to a year in prison, whereas distribution and possession carried a term of up to 11 years.
Part of the society in Georgia has been long demanding decriminalization of marijuana. Permanent rallies have been organized with the key demand ‘to change the human rights infringing drug policy’.
Proponents and opponents of decriminalization of marijuana have their own arguments.
· The legislation in effect envisages criminal liability for consumption, procurement and storage of marijuana in small quantities and there are huge number of people, who may fall under this article. Introduction of changes in this area could democratize the police, in general.
· Punitive measures, that the government applies with respect to marijuana users, do not yield any results: the number of addicts is not reducing.
· There is a great variety of home-made dangerous drugs in Georgia and it is better to smoke cannabis rather than use them.
· The use of marijuana (even on regular basis!) is not something that poses threat to the society. Therefore, penal sanctions are an inadequate, severe response to the essentially innocent breach.
· Instead of recklessly putting people in jail for a ‘doob’, the government would better start fighting against drugs at the prevention level: promotion of healthy lifestyle, facilitation of affordable sports centers, etc.
· Consumption of marijuana is usually just the first step on the drug addict’s path, which is followed by more serious drugs
· Marijuana liberalization will inevitably lead to increase in the number of addicts, and there are already quite a lot of them (there is no precise statistics, but there are at least 100 thousand people)
· The present state of affairs may possibly have its disadvantages, but criminal liability is obviously the strongest deterrent for most people. If there is no such factor, then regular use of marijuana will become a commonplace.
· Regular use is very harmful for health. The problems it causes in a young organism are certainly no less destructive for human life and fate, than imprisonment.
· Decriminalization should not be done at random. In order to start thinking about liberalization, the proper ground shall be carefully prepared – in particular, a system for prevention of drug addiction needs to be developed and the efficient treatment program should be built.
· In 2016, only twelve people have voluntarily sought medical treatment for their cannabis addiction.
· About 50,000 people have been tested by the police for marihuana use yearly. 17 million laris have been spent from the state budget on the compulsory tests.
· Interestingly, only 35% of those detained have been actually proved users.