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Patriarch Advocates Liberal Drug Policy, Gov’t Agrees

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, January 9
(TBILISI)--Georgia’s Patriarch Ilia II has stressed the importance of more liberal drug policy in his Christmas address appealing to the government to take steps to prevent drug consumption and invest more in rehabilitation rather than in punishment of drug consumers.

The Patriarch highlighted that Georgia’s current demographic situation is “extremely poor” and the citizens of Georgia need to be particularly cautious and intelligent enough to encourage positive moves for maintaining healthy generations.

Ilia II underscored the significance of rehabilitation centres and school programs that would raise awareness over “dramatic consequences” of drug addiction in younger generations.

The President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili stated that the statistics showed tough drug policy has resulted into higher rates of drug consumption.

Margvelashvili said he has always supported more loyal approach to drug consumption.

Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili stated he respected the Patriarch’s views whereas the Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze added the legislative body would take the Patriarch’s advice into account.

A while ago the Parliament postponed discussions about the draft envisaging the decriminalization of drug consumption. The reason was that the Georgian Dream (GD) majority was not unanimous on the bill. Last year the Constitutional Court decriminalized only Marijuana consumption.

Up until October 2015, Georgia’s law sentenced persons from 7 to 14 years in case of possessing a large amount of Marijuana. The same law determined 50-500g of marijuana as "a large amount.”

Law still remains strict to consumption of other drugs.

The opposition and the civil sector have been demanding the drug consumption decriminalization for years.

The opposition and non-governmental organizations state that if Parliament decriminalizes the consumption of all drugs, referring to more than 200 drugs, keeping drugs will not be used as the “lever” against those, whom the government may dislike.

Official figures read that compared to 2015, the number of intravenous drug consumers has increased from 45,000 to 50,000.

28,000 out of the 50,000 drug consumers suffer from Hepatitis C.

Georgia’s Public Defender’s Office and experts claim that if Georgia’s drug policy to consumption concentrates on prevention and treatment rather than punishment, the high percentage of consumption and the Hepatitis C will significantly decrease by 2027.