Georgia Takes on Drugs Decriminalization
16 May, 2013
Georgia Takes on Drugs Decriminalization
Coalition of NGOs appealed to the new parliament with the idea of decriminalization of drugs. Deputy of Chair of Health Committee Koba Davitashvili is the author of the bill that was initiated. The idea of the project is to help drug addicted individuals re-socialize not to punish them according to the criminal code, because “it thwarts the process of re-socialization”. The project has opponents too.
“This initiative was examined by former parliament but it was not realized because of disagreement
with power structures,” Koba Davitashvili told Georgian Journal, “I studied the issue, made some changes and after that, it was initiated. It doesn’t mean that taking drugs will be legal and it won’t be punished. The people who take drugs, will pay administrative penalty, which will help cutting down of the number of drug addicts and when they are not charged by the criminal code, it will help them in getting employment. Many people identify decriminalization with legalization. Decriminalization is not legalization and we have to make difference. There is also another term - de-penalization, though in Georgia decriminalization is more logical. In Georgia there is code of administrative offence which is absent in foreign countries. That’s why drug addictions is considered as a petty crime there; that’s why decriminalization has different sense then in Georgia. In Georgia, decriminalization means to free the person from criminal responsibility. But in foreign countries where there is no code of administrative offence, and decriminalization means freeing the lawbreaker of all responsibilities. Therefore, when they talk about decriminalization of marijuana, it practically means legalization. Consequently, the main idea of the bill is to free drug addicts from criminal responsibility. However, when some action is not punished either by the administrative or criminal code, it means that the action is legal. I am categorically against legalization; I think it is unacceptable.
Q. Does the bill give the list of permitted drugs and raise other issues related to the subject?
A. There are many substances that are not considered as drugs and the list should be improved and filled. It means that using those substances will fall under the code of administrative offence and committing them will be punished by the criminal law, which is not enacted at present. Besides, according to the bill, the state should create treatment centers for rehabilitation of drug addicts. Strict administrative punishment that is stipulated by the law, will compel them to go to those treatment centers. This bill will not settle the problem fully but it has more humanistic approach and it will help drug addicts in re-socialization. Therefore, I appeal for the strict decriminalization not a light one. The first case of taking drugs will be fined with GEL 300, the second – with GEL 600 and the third with GEL 3000. In addition, in any of these cases, a person will be offered a treatment opportunity and will be fined till he or she won’t decide to take treatment.
Q. When will the bill be discussed at the parliament?
A. At present, there is an Anti-Narcotics Inter-Ministry Council that incorporates five government structures – the Ministry Of Justice, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Prosecutor’s Office in coordination with the Ministry Of Justice, the Ministry of Education, the Healthcare and the Agriculture Ministries, the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance. There is also Health Committee of the parliament and NGOs incorporated in it. All these structures work on the bill and the government can make now initiative of the new bill, which is new because the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which was abstaining from agreeing on its decriminalization.
The bill has its opponents, who argue that taking into account the Georgian mentality, the law will have negative results. Georgian Journal will continue the cover the topic and offer opinions of the opponents.
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