“Marijuana will save us!” – Stoners speak out
05 June, 2014
“Marijuana will save us!” – Stoners speak out
Last Friday the square in front of the Georgian Chancellery building became a party site. Tents and loud music – this is how hundreds of people, along with several celebrities, protested the country’s strict laws regarding marijuana. They were united by a single idea: “Georgia’s government needs to stop the insulting practice of convicting its citizens as felons for usage of marijuana as soon as possible.”

“I am not a criminal,” “Marijuana is just a plant,” “Loosen
the laws,” “Stop the oppressive drug policy” – such were the slogans written on banners that the protesters held.
The organizers of the rally deny that their goal is the promotion of drug use, saying that it is quite the contrary: an expression of solidarity with those suffering from the harsh penalties of the current legislation. Lekso Machavariani, one of the main figureheads behind the protest, said that they were protesting against the country’s drug policy that sees a lot of innocent people cruelly punished every year. He added that their goal was personal liberty and that it had nothing to do with promoting marijuana. Another organizer said that cannabis should be distinguished from heavier drugs. According to him, only those smoking marijuana in public should suffer legal consequences such as fines.
People of all ages, clad in green t-shirts depicting cannabis leaves, took part in the protest, among them were parents, children and elderly individuals. According to them, cannabis users are “people who would never hurt a fly.”
Several bereaved parents were present among the protestors as well. For example, Manana Davitashvili expressed her support for the rally because her son had been given a six year sentence for being caught smoking marijuana.
Beka Tsiskarishvili’s case was also mentioned numerous times by the protestors. Beka, an employee of a local NGO, was detained in June 2013 after being caught possessing 65 grams of cannabis, which could cost him seven to fourteen years in prison. His trial was met with an outrage and a campaign by local artists, actors and singers called “Beka is Not a Criminal”. Its participants published numerous videos, blog posts and posters that demanded the legalization of cannabis and Beka’s acquittal. Beka himself was released on a 10,000 GEL (5,600 USD) bail, but not before he spent some time in Gldani prison.
The rally in Tbilisi was accompanied by parallel rallies in Kutaisi, Batumi, Samtredia, Bolnisi and Baghdati. Georgians living in Germany, USA and Sweden also made their opinions known.
In response to the protest, Georgia’s Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs promised to work on the country’s drug laws, saying that they were too lax towards certain drugs and unusually strict towards others.
“The use and possession of cannabis will no longer be subject to inadequately strict criminal penalties. Alternatively, prescription drug dealing will be the subject of harsher measures,” - said David Sergeenko in his announcement of a new bill on drug policy.
“Drug policy consists of several branches. For example, the policy against simple drugs such as cannabis, drug addiction treatment & rehabilitation policy or the battle against prescription drug dealing. Regarding the lighter drugs, the government’s approach was inadequately harsh, while its liberal stance on drug prescription bordered on absurd. This unexplainable tightening of the laws on cannabis needs to be corrected and the policy needs to be reorganized as a whole. We strive to have a harmonized, logic-based approach to these issues,” - stated the Minister, adding that the draft version of government’s new drug policy act will be introduced within a month.
Vice-Prime Minister Kakha Kaladze also contributed, saying that he deems a prison sentence of seven to eight years for smoking marijuana “completely unacceptable.”
“I think that all young people should live a healthy life. But seeing a person sentenced to seven or eight years in prison for smoking marijuana is completely unacceptable for me,” – said Kaladze.
This is not the first time Georgian citizens speak out against the country’s drug policy. The first pro-cannabis protest, dubbed “2.06” by the participants, occurred in 2013 in front of the old Parliament building on Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi.

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