Hundreds participate in festive protest against strict marijuana laws

  • Hundreds of Georgians protested the country's strict drug rules today. Photo by N. Alavidze / Agenda.ge
Agenda.ge, 2 Jun 2014 - 20:31, Tbilisi,Georgia

The paved area in front of the Government Administration building turned into a party zone this afternoon as hundreds of Georgians gathered to protest the country's strict drug rules.

Tents were erected and music blared from speakers as protesters enjoyed the well organised event.

The occasion was noisy and festive but the theme of the protest was sombre. Participants rallied against the country’s current strict legislation which punished cannabis users and cannabis dealers the same way – often with a harsh prison sentence.

Photo by N. Alavidze

Photo by N. Alavidze

Organisers of the ‘June 2 Movement’ protest, said their goal was not to promote drug use but to show solidarity and empathy to those who had fallen victim to the tough laws.

Lexo Machavariani, one of the event organisers said: "We are protesting against the violent and unethical drug policy which cruelly punishes innocent people. Our goal is to protect personal liberty and not to popularize marijuana."

The peaceful demonstration was held simultaneously in different cities across Georgia and abroad. Georgians living in Amsterdam, Berlin and New York also protested against Georgia’s harsh cannabis laws.

Photo by N. Alavidze

Photo by N. Alavidze

Photo by N. Alavidze

Many protesters wore green shirts and held posters that called on authorities to "stop jailing people for smoking weed".

People of all ages took part in the Tbilisi protest, including mothers, babies, fathers, teenagers and grandparents. They believed that people who smoked cannabis were "the most harmless people in the world”.

Photo by N. Alavidze

Protesters said they were not advertising marijuana but protecting personal freedom of those who smoked it.

"I want to support this because my son is in prison for using marijuana. He has been sentenced to six years [imprisonment],” Manana Davitashvili said.

Last month an employee of a local non-governmental organisation, Beka Tsikarishvili, was charged with purchase and possession of 65 grams of marijuana, for which he may be jailed for seven to 14 years.

In response to Tsikarishvili’s charge, a group of local artists, actors, singers and others began a campaign called ‘Beka is not a criminal’. The group published video clips, blogs and posters online demanding marijuana become legal.

Photo by N. Alavidze

Photo by N. Alavidze

Tsikarishvili was detained in June 2013 when police found marijuana on his possession after he was searched.

He paid 10,000 GEL ($5,600 USD) bail after he spent 18 days in Prison No 8 in Gldani, Tbilisi.

Another event organiser said: "We think there should be a categorization of drugs [and] marijuana should be separated from those drugs which are subject to criminal prosecution. We also believe this drug should be decriminalized.”

The organiser said a fine should only be imposed on marijuana users if they smoked cannabis in public places.

Earlier today Georgia’s Health Minister promised a major overhaul to the country’s drug laws after admitting current rules were too strict against marijuana and other soft drugs and too lenient against access to psychotropic drugs from pharmacies.

Minister David Sergeenko said the state had an "inappropriately strict” approach against soft drugs and said radical action would no longer be taken against cannabis users.

Vice-Prime Minister Kakha Kaladze believed a prison sentence of seven to eight years for smoking marijuana was "unacceptable”.

"I believe a healthy life for all young people is fundamentally important. As for the legislation, seven to eight years in prison for smoking marijuana is unacceptable for me,” Kaladze said.

The first marijuana rally, formerly known as "2.06" was held in Tbilisi last year outside the old Parliament building on Rustaveli Ave.

Photo by N. Alavidze

Photo by N. Alavidze

Photo by N. Alavidze

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