Georgian Constitutional Court delivers historic verdict on marijuana use

  • The Court said the current punishment for smoking cannabis was “inappropriately strict” and cannabis users and cannabis dealers should not be punished the same way. Photo by N. Alavidze/Agenda.ge
Agenda.ge, 25 Oct 2015 - 09:50, Tbilisi,Georgia

People in Georgia will no longer be jailed for using marijuana after the country’s Constitutional Court has announced a historic ruling.

The Court ruled Georgia’s marijuana law needed to be relaxed after discussing and upholding a claim by Georgian citizen Beka Tsikarishvili yesterday.

Tsikarishvili, who was detained for purchase and possession of 65 grams of marijuana in June 2013, challenged the norm of the Georgian marijuana law, which claimed a person should be jailed for seven to 14 years if he/she was found with a large amount of marijuana. The same law determined 50 to 500 grams of marijuana as "a large amount”.

The Constitutional Court said this punishment was "inappropriately strict” for smoking cannabis and cannabis users and cannabis dealers should not be punished the same way.

Although Tsikarishvili possessed "a large amount” of marijuana, the Court did not see any evidence he intended to sell it.

The Court called on the country’s lawmakers to create specific criteria that would help judges figure out whether a person was a marijuana dealer or if they possessed cannabis only for personal use. If found the drug was for personal use, a prison sentence would be an inappropriate punishment for these offenders, the Constitutional Court ruled.

The charge against Tsikarishvili sparked a large-scale protest against the country's strict marijuana laws last year. A group of local artists, actors, singers and others launched a campaign called ‘Beka is not a criminal’. The group published video clips, blogs and posters online demanding marijuana become legal.

Over the past two years two major rallies were held to protest the country’s strict drug laws.

The rally organisers wanted marijuana decriminalised; although yesterday’s court decision did not decriminalise cannabis - this was not even the subject of discussion - legalisation supporters were satisfied with the amendment and assessed the verdict as a "huge step forward”.

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