GEM Fest Drug Accusations: One Dead, 20 Hospitalized

A 22-year old girl died on Saturday allegedly due to an overdose of drugs at the famous month-long Georgian Electronic Music Festival (GEM Fest) in the Black Sea coastal town of Anaklia.

The girl was taken to Zugdidi Hospital but died eight hours later. It is alleged that she took the psychoactive drug “Bio,” also known as Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB), which has been seen increasingly throughout Georgia of late.

GHB is a central nervous system depressant that is commonly referred to as a “club” or “date rape” drug. GHB is used by teens and young adults at bars, parties, clubs and “raves” (all night dance parties), and is often placed in alcoholic beverages.

Over the last 5 days, around 20 people have been taken to hospital from the festival with similar symptoms to the deceased girl. One of them is a citizen of Ukraine. All but one of them were discharged from hospital on Monday.

Giorgi Sigua, GEM Fest founder, says that the festival territory is strictly controlled by in-house security and local police and no drugs are sold there.

"From the very first day of the festival, entrance has been strictly controlled and the maximum safety measures applied due to the number of visitors expected,” he stated.

Around 20,000 people are said to be visiting the festival on a daily basis.

“Representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs are mobilized at the entrances as well as on the coastline. Nobody is allowed to sell narcotic substances on the territory,” he emphasized.

Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) has so far detained five people for drug crimes at GEM Fest.

“MIA law enforcers seized 38 pills of 'Ecstasy' and 6547 grams of 'MDMA' during personal searches,” the ministry reports.

Community organization White Noise has asked the government to call an extraordinary parliamentary session to discuss the drug reform proposed by the National Platform for Drug Policy.

Their statement reads that, reportedly, several cases of intoxication by an unidentified psychoactive substance were reported at the festival but at this stage it is not known whether there is a link between this case and the 15 hospitalized festival attendees.

The organization is pushing for a more liberal drug policy to “solve the existing drug problems within the country”.

“The only correct answer to this situation is a fast, fundamental reform of Georgia’s drug policy,” White Noise representatives said on the topic of drug use. “Providing appropriate structures fully equipped with monitoring mechanisms for drug use will help to prevent unwanted risks. This can only be achieved by providing the right medical health care and social welfare for citizens”.

The movement also calls on law enforcers to publicize the results of the investigation and inform society what substance killed the young girl and poisoned the others.

“We call on those people who consume drugs to take care and not to take unknown substances,” the organization said.

Thea Morrison

07 August 2017 17:27