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Georgia: Tbilisi Struggles with Drug-Policy Reform

Several grams of marijuana can put a person in Georgia behind bars from seven to 14 years, while a convicted rapist only faces a maximum of six years. (Photo: Georgia Ministry of Corrections)

Georgia has held transparent elections and it has pledged to create an independent court system and to honor media rights. But when it comes to government policy on illegal narcotics, the South Caucasus country is still not ready for European integration, experts contend.
 
In Georgia, as in many other formerly Soviet republics, drug laws focus primarily on the prosecution and punishment of users, rather than on treatment or prevention. In much of the European Union, the approach toward illegal narcotics use is more integrated.
 
The differences could become more pronounced once Tbilisi signs an agreement on closer long-term ties with the European Union -- a deal often cast as a major step toward eventual membership.  The association agreement is slated to be signed on June 27.
 
Last June, Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani conceded to reporters that Georgia has a “repressive machine to deal with drugs.” At the November 2013 signing of the EU’s Vilnius Agreement on cooperative measures, she pledged to “reallocate resources from the ineffective prosecution and punishment of drug users to effective prevention and treatment.”
 

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Paul Rimple is a freelance reporter based in Tbilisi.

Georgia: Tbilisi Struggles with Drug-Policy Reform

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