Politician and 10 Others Arrested at Cannabis Festival

20 October, the founder of Girchi the opposition party and presidential candidate, Zurab Japaridze, was arrested by police during a cannabis legalization festival organised by his party at Dedaena Park in Tbilisi. Ten other attendees were detained following Japaridze’s arrest.  

Japaridze was detained by police after distributing ‘joints’ to the crowd. He told bystanders that he was waiting for the police reaction as his actions were not lawful. According to the Interior Ministry, he then voluntarily followed police a few minutes later. Not all arrests were so peaceful. One video shows as many as four police officers forcibly carrying someone towards a police van.

The festival went ahead despite being deemed illegal under Georgian legislation. The Interior Ministry described the festival as an ‘intention to commit organized crime’. They warned party leaders that promoting the use of recreational drugs is against the law.

Since the decriminalisation of marijuana in July, cannabis has been at the forefront of political debate in Georgia, not least due to the financial potential of growing medicinal cannabis on Georgian soil. However, opinion is divided.

Japaridze was released, along with the other detainees, after police questioning the following day. The official Facebook page of Girchi wrote: “Thanks to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, we will all sleep in our homes tonight.” The debate surrounding the legalization of cannabis continues.

by Amy Jones
Image: Reuters
21 October 2018 17:24