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Authoritarian Neoliberal Oppressiveness and Ways of Social Resistance

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Author:   Nils Buddemeier, Leon Wolf

The following essay discusses drug policy in Georgia, and social movements that resist the
harsh drug policy, particularly in the light of the state raids on night clubs, and widespread
protests in response to the state violence during May 2018 in Tbilisi. Initially we provide an
overview of so called ‘zero tolerance’ drug politics in Georgia, expressed in very high
penalties for the use, possession or distribution of any substance that is considered as a drug
by law. According to latest estimates, there are around 41.000 drug addicts in Georgia,
which equates 1% of the whole population (Bouscaillou et al. 2014: 2). The governments’
one of the key strategies to deal with these addicts is a very repressive and simple one:
imprisonment. Of course, it is very ineffective and does not accomplish anything positive for
the affected. This very repressive method of dealing with its citizens leads to an
overcrowded prison, to a point where 30% of prisoners are serving sentences for drug
related cases (Parulava 2017). There are places where one can seek therapy, but it is not
very popular or common, since the programs cannot assure full anonymity, as they are
required to verify patients’ IDs, which is due to the strict drug enforcement policy (Kirtadze
et al. 2013: 11). Another repressive method to give addicts a hard time is random street
testing for drugs. A positive result can bring a penalty of 6 to 8 years in prison (Krushynskaya
2017). In the past years there were some chances for change, for example in 2013 the
current minister of justice demanded to “reallocate the resources ineffective prosecution
and punishment of drug users to effective prevention and treatment” (Zulukiani in Rimple
2017). Also, On June 16th 2017 a bill to soften criminal penalties surrounding cannabis had
its first hearing in Georgia’s parliament. This radical change in Georgia’s drug policy
happened, after the constitutional court ruled in 2016, that imprisoning people for
possession and consumption of cannabis was unconstitutional (OC-Media 2017).

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