Consumption of cannabis in Georgia, former member of the now-dissolved Soviet Union, was officially legalized in July after a ruling by the country’s Constitutional Court. This follows a 2017 decriminalization decision that abolished harsh punishments for cannabis use. At Medicine Man Technologies, we agree that it’s a step in the right direction though broader reform needs to be implemented.
The case was led by plaintiffs and activists, Vakhtang Megrelishvili and Zurab Japaridze, party leader for Girchi or the New Political Center which leans libertarian. They argued that cannabis consumption was an individual freedom and that the consumer is accountable for any effects on their health. More importantly, they contended that consumption did not threaten society at large, thus making it unconstitutional to impose any type of penalty for personal use.
The court agreed, and while the ruling did not legalize cultivation or sales, the consumption of cannabis in Georgia will no longer be subject to administrative penalties such as fines.
However, the court did recognize that there may be situations where consumption does pose a risk to others, and those acts will be subject to punishment. Their ruling stated, “…the Constitutional Court highlights the imposition of responsibility of marijuana consumption when it creates a threat to third parties. For instance, the Court will justify responsibility when marijuana is consumed in educational institutions, public places, such as on public transport, and in the presence of children.”
Cultivating and Exporting Cannabis in Georgia? Not So Fast.
Despite the ruling, support for additional progress has stalled despite Georgia’s Finance Minister, Ivane Machavariani, stating that if the country were to cultivate and export cannabis for pharmaceutical and cosmetic products, it could generate profits of over 1B Georgian Lari (GEL) or over $383 million (USD) in just two or three years.
The country’s current ruling party, Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia, actually drafted legislation to capitalize on the opportunity, and it was presented to Georgia’s parliament by the Ministry of Internal Affairs on September. The goal was to create a regulated licensing program with typical rules regarding location, cultivation amounts, processing and all other necessary activities to support an export market.
The bill was widely criticized for the hypocritical nature of cultivation for export and government profit but not for legal buying and selling now that personal use has been legalized. “[The government] wants to produce it while punishing others for [using] it? This is absurd,” said Giga Bokeria of the European Georgia Party.
Zurab Japaridze, one of the plaintiffs from July’s Constitutional Court case, also reacted, “The use of marijuana is legal and there should be legal ways for obtaining legal substances. Marijuana production should become a usual business; it may be regulated but not monopolized.”
Adding more fuel to the controversy, the influential Georgian Orthodox Church also protested moving forward with further legalization of cannabis in Georgia. Current Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II, had said, “We must not regard profit alone. Why do we need such an economy if we lose our children?” He then urged government officials to rethink their plans and proceed with extreme caution.
In response, Parliament Speaker, Irakli Kobakhidze, postponed further discussion by lawmakers. Instead, the focus will be on informing citizens about further legalization and consulting with the Patriarchate to gain their support moving forward. He stated, “The society is not properly informed; there are false information being spread, there are speculations, so we need to pay particular attention to informing the public and decide [on the legislation] together with them.”
Like many other countries, it seems that legalizing cannabis in Georgia is just the beginning of a much bigger fight to bring true reform. Medicine Man Technologies hopes to see their government move ahead, with or without the support of the Church, to establish both a thriving export market and a system to provide citizens with full legal access to cannabis.
If you wish to start your own legal enterprise in the U.S. or anywhere across the globe, please contact us for private consulting, as well as help with licensing, cultivating, dispensary operations and more.