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“Oppressive drug policy seems to be failing, it might be better to loosen the screws”, – President of Georgia comments on plans for drug decriminalization

January 10, 2018

Giorgi Margvelashvili, the President of Georgia, suggested that the Georgian society should consider approaches to problem of drug addiction in the country which might make the drug policy less stringent and more humane.

“This issue is very important for me, and I have repeatedly emphasized that probably in our country, where we observe that punishment and coercion have been failing to bring forth any favorable results for decades, we should think whether we’d rather try to approach this problem in a different way”, the Georgian President said.

Грузинский президент Георгий Маргвелашвили President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili

President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili

The Patriarch of Georgia Elijah II raised the problem of drug addiction in his Christmas epistle. He called for the development of a drug policy that would protect young people and foster negative attitude towards this grave disease.

The strict drug policy in Georgia has not yielded results for decades, so it is better to give people more freedom in this area, Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili told journalists.

The President of Georgia held a meeting with representatives of non-governmental organizations advocating for the liberalization of drug policy. They provided the President with information about the steps taken in Georgia towards drug policy liberalization, the draft law and the action plan, and also listened to the President’s position on this issue.

Margvelashvili also provided comprehensive information on the activities of the Amnesty Commission and its guiding principles.

“When your policy fails to produce a positive outcome, when these restrictions and oppression that you once came up with do not work, it is better to lift these restrictions, so that people are free and able to decide their own fate”, Margvelashvili said.

According to him, restrictive drug policy has broken many human lives over the decades.

“I talked with a group that has been working on a topic that is extremely important for our society. This is the formation of a more advanced drug policy than the existing oppressive one, which for decades within the former Soviet and the current Georgian system has been ruining the lives of many people while failing to bring forth any improvement of the drug statistics”, Margvelashvili told.

The President emphasized the importance of cooperation between representatives of the legislative branch and NGO representatives to develop more relevant and tolerant drug policy.

This group is professionally working out a more humane drug policy. This group cooperates with our MPs who should be called upon to create legislation based on tolerance and adequacy principles”, Margvelashvili said.

In early December, the Constitutional Court of Georgia recognized the provision on the criminal prosecution, especially on imprisonment even in the case of repeated use of marijuana, to be a violation of human rights.

The abolition of criminal punishment does not mean the legalization of marijuana in Georgia. Smoking of this substance is still illegal, but from now on it will be categorized as administrative offense. The monetary penalty is set at 500 lari.

However, marijuana storage will not be punishable under the Criminal Code only if the seized amount of substance does not exceed the limit set for personal consumption. This will remain an administrative offense.

The limit or personal consumption is up to 5 grams of dried marijuana and up to 10 grams of fresh plant.

Until recently, in the case of repeated use of marijuana without the medical prescription, the offender, according to the Criminal Code of Georgia, had to pay a monetary penalty, perform socially useful works from 120 to 180 days, or can even end up imprisoned for up to 1 year.

Based on the decision of the Constitutional Court, persons convicted for consumption of marijuana will be removed from the criminal record and they will be reinstated in their forfeited rights.

Acquisition, storage, and especially selling of the “weed” remains a criminal offense. Meanwhile, in September 2016, the punishment for acquiring and storing up to 70 grams of marijuana was mitigated.

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