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Drug Policy in Georgia and across Europe

By Vladimer Napetvaridze
Friday, January 26
Actor Giorgi Giorganashvili was sentenced to eight years in prison on January 23. He was found guilty of purchasing and possession of drugs in large quantities- 0.375 gram of Buprenorphine (Subutex), an opiate. The convicted claims drugs were planted.

The courtís decision caused controversies in civil sector. Many think that sentencing a person to 8 years of jail time for using drugs only for personal use is unjust and inhumane. With regard to the case, protest rallies are planned to support Giorganashvili.

According to the Georgian legislation, a person can be sentenced from 8 to 20 years of prison time for possessing drugs for personal use. It is interesting to analyze the drug policy of other countries. All countries in Europe specify that the possession of drugs for personal use is an offense, though it may be defined in different ways. According to European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), which is one of the EUís decentralized agencies, the drug-policy in various European countries, is as follows:

In Austria, the possession of drugs and psychotropic substances for personal use is punishable up to 6 months of imprisonment or a fine;

In Belgium, the possession of drugs for personal use is punishable from 3 months to 5 years in prison or a fine;

In Bulgaria, the possession of high risk and particularly, harmful plants, substances and preparations is punishable by a fine from 2000 to 5000 levs (USD 1200- USD 3000). The possession of high-risk substances is punished by imprisonment of one to six years, while the possession of risk substances is punishable by imprisonment of up to five years;

In Croatia, the possession of drugs for personal use is a (non-criminal) misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of EUR 650 - 2,600 (HRK 5,000-20,000);

In Cyprus, the possession of controlled drugs for personal use (defined by quantity limits) is a criminal offence punishable up to 12 years of imprisonment (for Class A drugs), up to 8 years imprisonment (for Class B drugs), up to 4 years (for Class C drugs). No more than one year in prison for a first-time offender aged under 25;

In Czech Republic, the possession of a small quantity of drugs for private use is a misdemeanor punished by a fine up to 15,000 CZK = 600 Eur. The possession of drugs for personal use in "a quantity greater than small" is punishable under the Penal Code but varies by drug type. The possession of drugs is punished up to 2 years of imprisonment. The imprisonment extends from 6 months to 5 years if the quantity of drugs is "larger", and from 2 to 8 years if the amount is "significant";

In Denmark, the possession of drugs is punished up to 2 years of imprisonment. A warning can be issued if possession is a result of dependence, long and persistent abuse of drugs;

In Estonia, the possession of drugs for personal use in small quantities (up to ten doses) is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to Eur800 or by administrative detention for up to 30 days.

In Greece, when the possession is classified as "narcotics offence", it is punished by a fine or up to 2 years of imprisonment. Possession of a small amount is classified as "unlawful use of narcotics" offence, punishable by a fine or up to 6 months of imprisonment;

In Finland, the possession of "narcotic" drugs for personal use is mostly charged as crime, therefore punished by up to one year in prison. Possession of narcotic drugs in big quantities is punishable up to 10 years, and EUR 7 500 000. A Prosecutor can choose this charge even for possession of a small quantity of drugs;

In France, the possession of drugs is punished by imprisonment of up to 5 years or a fine. Prosecution may be refrained if the offender's guilt is minor, if there is no public interest in the offence and the narcotics were only intended for the offender's own use in small quantities;

In Germany, the possession of drugs for personal use is punished up to 5 months of imprisonment. Personal possession of drugs can be unpunished if the court, considering the circumstances of the offense and the offenderís personality, believes that the act is unlikely to be repeated.

In Hungary, the possession of drugs is a criminal offence. Basic form of possession offence is punished by min. 1 year to max. 5 years of imprisonment. If a small quantity of drugs is possessed the charge is up to 2 years of imprisonment;

In Ireland, the punishment for possession of drugs other than cannabis is charged with up to 12 months imprisonment (summary conviction);

In Italy, the possession of drugs for personal use is a non-criminal offence punished by various administrative sanctions (e.g. suspension of driving license, firearms license, passport, and residential permit). In case of the first offence, when considered "particularly minor", a warning might be issued;

In Latvia, the possession of drugs for personal use may be charged as a criminal or an administrative offence depending on the quantity. Possession of small quantity of drugs without an aim to sell presents an administrative offence, which is punished by a warning or a fine up to EUR 280, above this amount, possession without intent to sell is punished up to 3 years in prison;

In Lithuania, according to the Penal Code, possession of drugs without intent to distribute or supply is punished by a fine, arrest or imprisonment of up to 2 years (criminal responsibility). Possession of small quantities may be punished by a fine or 10-45 days of administrative arrest;

In Luxembourg, possession of other drugs (not cannabis) carries a possible prison sentence between 8 days Ė 6 months and/or a fine of EUR 251-2500;

In Netherlands, possession of drugs is punishable up to 1-year in prison for drugs included in List I ("unacceptable risk") or up to 1-month in prison for drugs included in List II ("other drugs");

In Norway, possession of small amounts of drugs is punished up to 6 months of imprisonment and/or a fine. Possession of a larger quantity of drugs is punished more severely, according to the provisions of the Civil Penal Code: up to 2 years of imprisonment and/or a fine;

In Poland, possession of drugs is a criminal offence punished by max. 3 years of imprisonment (basic form of the offence). In the case of a small amount, maximum punishment is a 1-year imprisonment. In case of possession of a "significant quantity of drugs," the punishment range is 1-10 years of imprisonment;

In Portugal, possession of a limited quantity of drugs for personal use (up to 10 days of average individual consumption) is an administrative offence and may be punished with a fine or a non-pecuniary sanction. However, if the quantity of drugs possessed or cultivated exceeds the threshold quantity of 10 daily doses, it is considered a crime, and punished by up to 1 year in prison or 120 days of fine;

In Romania, the unlawful possession of drugs for personal use is punishable from 3 months to 2 years imprisonment for "risk" drugs (Schedule III), and from 6 months to 3 years imprisonment for "high risk" drugs;

In Spain, possession, provided no criminal offence is involved, is a serious infraction of public safety. It is an administrative offence, which is punished with a fine between EUR 600 - 30,000;

In Sweden, possession of drugs is punishable up to 3 years of imprisonment. If the type of drug, quantity and other circumstances are minor (petty offence), it is punished by a fine or imprisonment of up to 6 months.

According to the list of countries, provided above, all of the European states specify the possession of drugs for personal use as an offense and a penalty is provided for this type of crime. The penalty also varies according to the quantity of drugs, possessed by a person. Although, in some of the European countries, for example, in Cyprus, possession of controlled drugs for personal use is punishable up to 12 years imprisonment, none of the countries mentioned has a bigger imprisonment time than Georgia - 8 to 20 years.