Since 2006, about 50,000 people annually are detained by the police in streets and tested for drugs. Positive test results lead to high penalties or imprisonment. The major rationale behind this policy is an assumption that strict punitive measures (a) prompt drug users to quit using drugs and (b) prevent children and young adults from experimenting with illegal drugs. Nevertheless, opponents of such policy consistently argue that hunting thousands of young people to test them for drugs has very limited, or no influence on the level of drug use.
In response to the need to provide answers to issues raised above, Open Society Georgia Foundation supported the coalition of organizations to conduct the study. Members of the coalition are: Addiction Research Center, Union Alternative Georgia, Association of Young Economists of Georgia (AYEG), Center for Protection of Constitutional Rights (CPCR) and Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA). Technical assistance and consultation was provided by Curatio International Foundation. Based on the survey results organizations developed the policy brief prompting government to take concrete measures. The presentation of the survey report took place on April 19 in the Sheraton Metechi Palace and gathered stakeholders, NGO, and media representatives.
The authors of this report underwent an exercise that is rather novel in the history of drug policy of Georgia. They looked at studying effectiveness of street testing and expenditures related to this process. Specifically, the research focused on following questions:
a) How much did the Republic of Georgia spend on random street drug testing and consecutive legal measures in 2008?
b) What were the impacts of the random street testing for the drug users in terms of their dug career/use, and the related disorders?
c) What could be achieved if the funds specified in a) would have been spent on increase of the availability of OST, or possibly other treatment or prevention measures?
Study results show that the punishment and imprisonment of drug users in Georgia has no or little influence on the drug related behaviour and is a dramatically inefficient waste of limited resources of law enforcement and judicial system. Punitive measures that have no analogue in the developed democratic countries did not result in any measurable reduction of drug use, caused harmful criminalisation of 1,605 persons that notoriously leads drug users to involve not only in “consensual” drug crime but also to criminal activities significantly more dangerous for public order.
Through the policy brief organizations will call for government to make concrete and result-oriented decisions, which foresee removing article 273 from the Criminal code, which will prevent sending some 1,600 people to prisons and saves more than 8 mil GEL in imprisonment costs and shift police priorities from hunting drug users to criminal activities that have either real impact on criminal situation, or on public safety.