Georgia: Pee-Protest Pushes for Softer Drug Laws
Urine cups appeared in front of Georgia's main government building the other day as a remonstration against government-performed urinalyses to detect drug users. The pee-protest capped a recently invigorated push to decriminalize the use of marijuana and showcased growing frustration about what many see as the country's overly harsh narcotics laws.
Proclaiming "You Can't Find Crime in Urine," the June 9 rally was sparked when police crashed a private party in the capital, Tbilisi, and hauled off 14 people for drug tests. Street art also appeared around the city, with one graphic portraying policemen offering a test cup to a line of characters ranging from Manneken Pis, Brussels' landmark peeing boy statue, to Star War’s Yoda.
One widely distributed Facebook photo goes a step further and shows the Brussels boy taking aim at the Georgian interior ministry.
But the police maintain they were within their rights. They say they'd arrived on the scene after neighbors complained about the party.
One of the detained partiers insists, though, that the cops did not bother to show a warrant,the Georgian service of RFE/RL reported.
Ultimately, 13 of those detained tested positive for marijuana. Most face fines, while one may be liable to a prison term.
Georgia long has faced criticism for its lengthy prison sentences for drug-related offenses. The European Union's human-rights envoy to Georgia, Thomas Hammarberg, recommended this week that Georgia stop treating personal drug use as a crime, and reduce the punishments for drug possession, Tabula.ge reported.
Much of the campaign for the legalisation of marijuana is centered on support for a young man facing between four to 14 years in prison for purchasing 65 grams of marijuana.
Prison sentences, some Georgian and international activists argue, only serve to push drug-users closer to the criminal world, and should be reduced.
But Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili takes a different view. While discussions about changing punishments for drug use are possible, decriminalisation of marijuana will not happen on his watch, he announced on June 4, Netgazeti.ge reported.
Speaking of the need for the government to care for the interests of future generations of Georgians, Gharibashvili argued that marijuana is the first step in a slippery slide that can end in "pills, heroin and . . bionarcotics."
Allowing Georgia to take that first step by legalizing marijuana is, therefore, "excluded," he concluded.
Expect the protests to continue.
Giorgi Lomsadze is a journalist based in Tbilisi, and author of Tamada Tales.
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