The discussion of the liberalization of the existing policy towards drug users in Georgia has been ongoing for several years now. In 2017, this process entered an active phase when a draft law was introduced to the Parliament of Georgia. The draft law envisions the liberalization of drug policy and the development of rehabilitation programs for drug users.
The principal goals of the national strategy and action plan for battling drug abuse are reduction drug use, increase in the availability of education and information resources, reduction of drug supply and illegal distribution. The national strategy does not envisage punishing drug users, although statistical data indicates a different reality – the national legislation and practice harshly punishes drug users.
The Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) published a statistical analysis of drug-related crime in 2015 and underlined the necessity of rehabilitation programs for drug users. In the same article, IDFI pointed out the root problem that exists in relation to imposing a just and proportionate punishment for drug-related crimes. Namely, IDFI indicated the absence of a minimal margin for the use of a number of drugs, resulting in criminal prosecution even for the possession of a miniscule amount of drugs with the purpose of future use.
These problems remain unresolved in 2018, which is exactly why it is interesting to discuss statistical data up to 2018 related to criminal or administrative prosecution for the possession, distribution and use of drugs. In particular, IDFI analyzed statistical data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs from 2013 to 2017 (encompassing the period of January to October of 2017).
- The existing legislation and practice related to drug policy in Georgia is in opposition to both international standards and the declared national strategy. The strategy outlines the goals of reducing supply and demand, education regarding the reduction of harmful effects, and rehabilitation. In contrast, the existing practice is to a large extent oriented towards punishing drug users;
- In the last 4 years, the number of registered drug-related criminal cases declined by 34%; from 7,312 cases in 2014 to 4,762 cases in 2017. In the same period, 92-93% of these cases were closed, which is one of the highest percentages among criminal cases in Georgia;
- In the years 2013-2017, the amount of administrative offences related the acquisition, possession or use of drugs declined threefold; from 12,274 incidents in 2013 to 3,416 incidents in 2017 (initial 10 months);
- If one supposes that each administrative offender was fined 500 GEL prescribed by the law, one gets that in 2013-2017 the amount of these fines equaled a total of 17,816,000 GEL;
- In the years 2014-2017, the number of persons taken for drug testing declined almost five times (from 50,865 to 11,653), while the number of persons showing a positive result in the test declined threefold. This trend should be evaluated positively, although, because this policy of the Government is not predicated on legislation, the trend might change at any time. In order to avoid this, it is vital to stop the criminal prosecution of drug users on the legislative level in the shortest possible time;
- Within the last 4 years, the share of persons showing a positive result on drug use as a result of a drug test increased from a quarter to one half of all tests;
- According to the approximate calculations based on minimal pricing, in the last four year a minimum of 2,448,520 GEL was spent on drug tests. 1,670,940 GEL (68%) was spent on persons that were later discovered to not have any drugs in their system;
- While tens of thousands of people were fined for drug use, according to the statistics provided by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in 2016 only 10 people were arrested for distributing drugs, and only 36 people – in 2017. Such a vast difference in numbers of people arrested for drug use and drug distribution raises questions regarding the priorities of the drug policy of the country;
- The opinion of the UN regarding the most widespread method of battling drug-related crime in Georgia – namely mandatory drug testing – is the following: testing is not based on proof, it violates the right to privacy, bears the appearance of social control, some tests mistakenly show positive results and are never verified, testing does not allow the differentiation of drug users and drug addicts.
The analysis was prepared in frames of the project "Empower Society for Strengthening Good Governance", financially supported by International Visegrad Fund and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The responsibility of the content of the article lies with the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI). It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of International Visegrad Fund and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
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