Radio Free Europe reports from Tbilsi that Georgia has decriminalized marijuana consumption. Georgia — a former territory of the Soviet republic — resides at the intersection of Europe and Asia, in the Caucuses. Georgians refer to their country as Sakartvelo.
The July 30 decision only applies to cannabis consumption. Selling and cultivating cannabis is still a criminal offense.
The ruling added the caveat that if an individual’s cannabis consumption endangered or put someone else, such as a child, at risk, then “punishing an individual for consuming cannabis would comply with the constitution,” according to RFE.
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The ruling was induced by a lawsuit filed by activists of the liberal Girchi party. Girchi is an extra-parliamentary political party in Georgia that splintered off from the United National Movement. Girchi was founded in November 2015, after four lawmakers— Zurab Japaridze, Giorgi Khachidze, Giorgi Meladze, and Pavle Kublashvili— quit the UNM, the formerly ruling and then parliamentary minority group. The name Girchi means “pine cone.” It was chosen as a symbol of greenery — like cannabis.
“According to the applicants [Zurab Japaridze and Vakhtang Megrelishvili], the consumption of marijuana is not an act of social threat. In particular, it can only harm the user’s health, making that user him/herself responsible for the outcome. The responsibility for such actions does not cause dangerous consequences for the public,” the court said.
“The Constitutional Court highlights the imposition of responsibility of marijuana consumption when it creates a threat to third parties. For instance, the court will justify responsibility when marijuana is consumed in educational institutions, public places, such as on public transport, and in the presence of children,” the court added.
The lawsuit stated in part that cannabis, “Can only harm the health of the consumer, who is responsible for the results of the action.”
Legalization activist Zurab Japaridze, who initially filed the lawsuit with the constitutional court told reporters that the ruling was a victory for a freer Georgia, RFE reports.
“This was not a fight for cannabis; it was a fight for freedom.,” he said. “Administrative punishment for consumption of marijuana was revoked by the Constitutional Court, which means that consumption of marijuana in Georgia is now legal,” he explained.
The Constitutional Court previously decriminalized consumption of Cannabis in November of 2017; however, it was still punishable by a fine.
Prior to that, Georgia’s Criminal Code outlined repeated cannabis consumption and possession of more than 70 grams of dried flowers as a crime. If caught, consumers could potentially be punished, but not incarcerated.
Not everyone was happy with the high court’s decision. “I do not agree with the decision of the Constitutional Court,” said Akaki Zoidze, member of governing party Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia and chair of Georgia’s parliament’s healthcare committee.
“Cannabis consumption should be allowed only for medical purposes. Our aim was not to make marijuana accessible for everyone, but to reduce the number of drug addicts.,” Zoidze said.
The Girchi party has been at the forefront of marijuana reform action for the past seventeen months. Its members vowed that they would continue to fight for full marijuana decriminalization in Georgia.