Court Recognizes Inhumane Punishment of Marijuana Users

The Constitutional Court of Georgia announced a historic decision on October 24th, ruling that the imprisonment of individuals for purchasing and possessing up to 70 grams of marijuana for personal use will no longer be punishable with an unconstitutional 7 to 14 year prison sentence.

Previously, offenders would face criminal charges and prison time. The decision does not decriminalize marijuana and does not apply to cases where the obvious purpose of possession, regardless of its amount, is to distribute.

The Court ruled Georgia’s marijuana laws needed to be liberal after discussing and upholding a claim by a Georgian citizen, Beka Tsikarishvili, on Saturday, who was facing criminal charges for possessing 69 grams of marijuana – that is classified by the Georgian legislation as a large amount. The same law classified 50 to 500 grams of marijuana as a large amount.

Tsikarishvili, a young man working at a local non-governmental organization, was detained in 2014 for marijuana use. Crowds of supporters campaigned in support and demanded marijuana decriminalization and the reform of the government’s policy toward soft drugs.

The Court ruled, imprisonment is inhumane and cruel treatment that infringes upon human dignity and is in conflict with the second part of article 17 of the constitution.

Tbilisi-based, Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center, which provided legal counsel to the defendant, told, the Constitutional Court’s ruling means that Tsikarishvili, or anyone else facing similar charges for buying or possessing up to 70 grams for personal use, will no longer be imprisoned, even if found guilty.

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

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

Photo: Guram.M Photography

26 October 2015 16:43