From illegal to legal: Georgia's big move
Georgia, the Southern European , previously communist nation had, until recently, strict policies in place relating to the use by its citizens of marijuana and other recreational drugs. Now, the country, populated approximately 3.7 million, has essentially decriminalized the cannabis for medical and recreational use.
FACTPopulated approximately 3.7 million, has essentially decriminalized the cannabis for medical and recreational use.
A huge relief to Georgian Pot-Smokers
Since last month, residents of Georgia have been free to use recreational cannabis albeit for only personal use and in small quantities.
The only exceptions to the freedom to imbibe are in situations where there is a concern over potential harms (intended or not) to an innocent the third party. In terms of practical restrictions felt by Georgians of these rules, the effects aren’t onerous. For example, it’s illegal to smoke cannabis outside schools – something most smokers would agree with.
Some rules are still in place, however. Georgians are still not allowed to grow cannabis at home, store it or sell it, for example, and can still be arrested for doing.
Following this amendment in law, the practical distinction between a user and the dealer is categorized – at around 150 grams. Individuals are now prohibited to sell cannabis in large quantity (over 150 grams/5.1 oz). Transgressors - if found guilty of selling more than the legal quantity, could face 30 years of imprisonment.
FACTEssentially, then, the Constitutional Court of Georgia has voted to ‘legalize marijuana’ across the country for reasons mostly of constitutional freedom.
Why did Georgia Decriminalize Cannabis?
The issue was brought to the fore by the case of Beka Tsikarishvili, a 27 years old Georgian male who was arrested with 65 grams of cannabis in his possession, back in 2013. His defense was mounted around the position that his cannabis was for his personal use only. He argued (through his representative) that the long sentence he was given, was unlawful, and it infringed the human right to hold something which harmed only him.
Surprisingly, the judges adjudicating his case agreed with him and called the law unconstitutional. While the possession of marijuana as a recreational drug still comes with a hefty penalty, the court declared that a user who is previously arrested, will not be charged again.
Essentially, then, the Constitutional Court of Georgia has voted to ‘legalize marijuana’ across the country for reasons mostly of constitutional freedom.
In reality the proposed changes to drug policy in Georgia are more in line with what has been called decriminalization in other areas of the world. Proponents of the change pointed to incidents of police using the possession of cannabis as a ‘reason to crack down’ on those they wanted to impact.
The medical point of view
Not everyone agreed with the decision of the court. In contrast to many other areas of the world which have legalized cannabis for medical use, grave concerns were expressed by the Georgian medical sector, in light of the suggestion that cannabis be legalized. They’ve made it clear that they believe cannabis has a hazardous effect on health.
Akaki Zoidze (chair of the healthcare committee in Georgian parliament) also publicly disagreed with the decision of the Constitutional Court and stated that the use of marijuana should be limited to medical applications only.
His primary reasons relate to marijuana’s addictive properties and unknown long-term effects. Some users reported having mild anxiety and paranoia after smoking, some stated a clam and blissful experience. Researchers are not sure why this variation exists.
Georgia now, the rest of the world soon
There are two important elements to the Georgian situation, from an Australian point of view.
Second, Georgia’s constitutional judgement could support similar claims and requests in other ex Soviet countries – perhaps extending to the Western World if it proves to garner a foothold there. Perhaps there is scope to convince an Australian court of the unconstitutionality of banning cannabis consumption?