The Constitutional Court of Georgia today supported a notion to decriminalize the consumption of marijuana, ruling that it is unconstitutional to criminally persecute a person for using marijuana.
The lawsuit in the Constitutional Court was entered by Giorgi Shanidze, who was legally supported by the Girchi political party, which has been vocal against repressive drug policies in Georgia.
The plaintiff argued that being criminally prosecuted for the consumption of marijuana is a violation of his human rights, referencing Article 16 of the Constitutional Court of Georgia, that “everyone shall have the freedom to develop their own personality.” Shanidze argued that criminalizing the use of marijuana contradicts this article.
In its decision, the Constitutional Court writes that every person has the right to choose their means of relaxation.
The defendants did not present any scientific research or examples which could serve as evidence proving that there is a higher risk of committing a crime or violate public health when a person is under the influence of marijuana.
Girchi member lawyer Iago Khvichia told news agency on.ge that the Court’s decision will have a great impact, including for those who are now serving prison time for consumption of marijuana.
The White Noise Movement, a non-governmental organization advocating for softer drug policies, issued an official statement on the Court’s decision:
“One more victory: From now on consumption of marijuana is decriminalized. The criminal persecution of individuals has been approved as unconstitutional according to the Constitutional Court of Georgia.
We want to congratulate the whole of Georgia on this. We want to thank the authors of the lawsuit and Gichi representatives for a very important contribution in the battle against existing drug policies. With this decision, the Court has hit the repressive drug policies once more and indicated that decriminalization is inevitable! We are waiting for you on December 10,” they said in their statement.
Activists plan to hold a “Dare to Decriminalize” demonstration in support of decriminalization of drugs in Georgia on December 10 at 17:00 pm at Rose Revolution square. The demonstration is in support of a legislative package on decriminalization which will soon be discussed in parliament.
Since 2010, there has been an active social campaign in Georgia demanding for the liberalization of the country’s drug policies. The first large demonstration in Tbilisi demanding the decriminalization of marijuana was held on June 2, 2013; there have been demonstrations for decriminalization on every subsequent June 2nd.
As a result of numerous campaigns led by the June 2nd Movement, White Noise Movement, GeNPUD and other organizations, the Constitutional Court ruled in 2015 that the possession of less than 70 grams of marijuana would not be punishable by prison. In 2016, the Constitutional Court also ruled that the private use of marijuana is not criminally punishable by prison. However, cultivation of marijuana continues to be punishable with a 12-year prison term.
According to a 2015 study by the research center on addiction Alternative Georgia, in cooperation with the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC), 69.4% of those polled were in favour of decriminalization of marijuana. 54.5% of those polled believed that people should not be arrested for the use of all other drugs.
In 2016, 40 civil society movements and organisations working on drug policy created a National Platform for Narcopolitics working towards decriminalizing the consumption of all drugs.