The Georgian drug policy epitomizes a leftover mind-set of Soviet times and the supreme control of state over people. Cannabis activists “fight” for freedom.
Fear and intimidation, the legacy of Soviet occupation, still looms over citizens of Georgia in terms of the drug policy – activists want freedom.
Cannabis now reports on the brewing cannabis revolution in the former Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia. Currently, if caught with cannabis, or distributing it , punishment may range from a $200 USD fine to 11 years incarceration. Critics argue these penalties combined with aggressive law enforcement, are more damaging to society than cannabis itself.
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Liberation is a state of mind
Liberal-centrist Georgian opposition party Girchi’s leader, Zurab Japaridze, is amongst those in the front line of the fight for freedom. He recently gave the Georgian government an ultimatum: to at least decriminalize possession and consumption of cannabis by the end of the year. If not, his party will plant a cannabis plant in their office at the year-end count down.
Human rights starts with the right over one’s own body
His reasoning is that his party is not just fighting for cannabis, but for freedom. Freedom starts with the right to take 100% ownership of your own body. Japaridze puts it this way, “We believe that this is the foundation of all other human rights. The government has nothing to do whatsoever with what any citizen inhales or puts in his body in other ways. So, for us, it is a fight for freedom.”
Japaridze gives credit to two other organizations, June 2 and White Noise. They have been making some noise on their own. White Noise is advocating for laws in Georgia to follow Portugal’s example. They are also keeping media attention on the suicide of 22-year old Demur Sturua. The police tried to force him to become an informant. In a suicide note he blames his decision to choose death on this pressure.
Government responsible for suicide
The officer who was instrumental in his death is on the run after he has been charged, but White Noise and other activist organizations blame Sturua’s death on the country’s harsh laws.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs or MIA stridently opposes safe access to cannabis. It maintains that cannabis users have no place in a socially conservative society. The agency insists on maintaining the Soviet-style status quo on cannabis laws.
Japaridze claims that despite the overwhelming forces against them, cannabis advocacies have won big battles in the court of public opinion.
Public opinion is changing
“At least the majority of people agree now that citizens should not be sentenced to several years in prison for just smoking marijuana,” he said.
He says the good news of eight more victories in the US in the last election is inspiring to the rest of the world. In a public debate on TV, Japaridze took the stance that in civilized societies the debate on cannabis legalization was already won. Now legislative formulation must just follow, and he says the latest US Elections are clear proof of that.