Appeal of the National Drug Policy Platform to the Authorities of Georgia

22 Sep, 2017

September 20, 2017

As it is known, on June 26 this year, members of the Parliament of Georgia – Akaki Zoidze, Levan Koberidze, Sopio Katsarava, Dimitri Tskitishvili and Irina Pruidze addressed the Parliament of Georgia with an initiative to implement fundamental reforms in the field of drug policy. The initiated draft law fully echoes the current challenges in regards to the current drug policy and the public demand on ending the repressive drug policy. The draft law aims at making systemic changes to the drug policy, and transferring the problem of drug usage from the criminal field into the area of health and human rights, and creating a system of adequate services for drug users.

The National Drug Policy Platform started working on this bill in Spring 2016, and since the beginning of this year this process has been taking place within the frameworks of the working group of the Health Committee of the Parliament of Georgia. During this period, the Platform and its representatives attempted many times to make the working process as representative and constructive as possible, and to have the draft law reviewed by representatives of the executive power as well together with members of various parliamentary committees, to reach consensus on the matters of principle envisaged in the bill.

There is a sad reality that so far the executive authorities have not had any common and clear vision about how to develop the drug policy in Georgia, at what extent it should contain repressive and punitive mechanisms and what kind of support services it should offer to drug users. Prospects of the planned reform becomes even more vague due to the fact that the administration of the government produced a clearly negative opinion regarding the submitted draft law (positions of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs), which together with technical comments (regarding which the Platform declares full readiness to work in any format) contains criticism concerning the fundamental directions of the draft law, namely:

·         Decriminalization of usage/possession of drugs in small amounts;

·         Determining the amounts of narcotic substances based on fair procedure, where a small amount will be a daily dose for an average drug user;

·         Mitigating sanctions envisaged in the Criminal Code for drug crimes;

·         Developing a new, more specific and precise definition of drug usage, as a result of which it will not be possible to use sanctions against a drug user for taking drugs in the past, if currently s/he is not under influence.

The platform has a strong stand regarding these issues and considers that if they are not taken into account, the reform will be deprived of contents and will divert from the main essence – state support and care towards the users of all kinds of drugs, especially the hard drugs. The attempt to classify narcotic substances and differentiate punishments and services this way will be derailed from the main spirit and real needs of the reform from the very beginning.

The platform considers that it was very important to cooperate with the Parliament of Georgia and particular agencies, which has been the case so far. At the same time, on the background of high public interest towards this issue, and daily expectations at penitentiary institutions and among thousands of supporters outside, we think it is necessary to address the Government of Georgia to communicate its specific vision to the public about in what direction and at what extent it plans to implement the drug policy reform in the country.

It is critical to take specific steps concerning this issue alongside with general political promises, before the local government elections in October. It is important considering the negative experience, which the drug users community and activists have had for many years during their relationship with various authorities, as far as the repressive and inhumane drug policy has not changed despite many election promises.

The National Drug Policy Platform of Georgia expresses its readiness to work with all the respective agencies in shortest timeframes, with the purpose of improving the draft law and reaching the consensus. Besides, the platform calls on:

·         The Interagency Coordinating Council for Combating Drug Abuse– to summon a meeting related to the initiated draft law, and give us an opportunity to discuss the content issues with respective bodies;

·         The Government of Georgia – to clearly state its readiness regarding the implementation of a complex reform in the area of drug policy and support the timely and effective discussions of the initiated draft law at the parliament.