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DRUG POLICY / Analytical Documents

Practice of the Constitutional Court on Drug Policy - Assessing the Process of Reflecting Decisions in Legislation Social Justice Center Tbilisi 2021


Georgia's state policy on the consumption or the purchase/storage of drugs for the purpose of consumption has long relied on the execution of severe punishment and repression. The worst experience, in this regard, dates back to 2006, when the then government announced a "zero tolerance policy", which, among others, also addressed drug crimes.[1] Stringent drug policies, in addition to leaving an indelible mark on the lives of countless people, have also failed to curtail the total number of drug users.[2] Conversely, according to some sources, the cases of consumption of high-risk drugs has been on the rise for years.[3]

In their talks, the new government, in 2012, addressed the issue of drug policy liberalization.[4] As a result of the legislative amendments in those years, criminal sanctions for the purchase and possession of drugs were reduced, and the government adopted a State Strategy and Action Plan to Combat Drugs, “highlighting the importance of public health, drug prevention, harm reduction programs, and combatting discrimination and stigmatization of drug users”.[5] Nevertheless, drug policy in Georgia has remained extremely strict and has not undergone a substantial change until 2015.

Since 2015, radical changes in the field of drug policy, founded on the decisions made by the Constitutional Court, have been initiated. The court imparted salient clarifications on the use, possession, purchase, storage and cultivation of marijuana and other narcotic substances. Judgments of the Constitutional Court declared the deprivation of liberty for possession of marijuana for personal use impermissible; Hence, marijuana consumption in private space was legalized; Deprivation of liberty was declared to be manifestly disproportionate for the action of the possession of unusable amount of any narcotic substance, and etc.

This document aims to present the dynamics of the decisions made by the Constitutional Court, their content, main arguments and, to provide their critical analysis. Based on this, the document reviews the processes of enforcement of these decisions by the Parliament and the consequent amendments to the legislation. The document is an attempt to critically discern the process pertaining to the legislative branch defining its role and actions on the path to drug policy liberalization. In addition, the document will flag the challenges that remain in the direction of humanizing drug policy and highlight the weight carried in this process, on the one hand, by the Constitutional Court and, on the other hand, by the Parliament.

In line with the issues discussed in the document, the following findings can be ascertained:

  • Drug policy in Georgia remains stringent. Instead of ensuring access to social mechanisms oriented at care provision, the policy aims to punish and repress drug users
  • The legislature does not percieve itself as a main driver of the radical transformation of drug policy. As a rule, the parliament waits for the decision of the Constitutional Court and exercises reactive behavior, instead of forming a political agenda on drug policy
  • The steps taken by the legislature towards the humanization and liberalization of drug policy are largely fragmentary and insufficient, including in relation to determining the amounts of narcotic The Parliament of Georgia has yet to express its political will to implement a fundamental drug policy reform
  • Parliament by and large narrowed and misinterpreted the Constitutional Court's argument regarding the use of marijuana in private space. In addition, the Parliament still narrowly views the issue of marijuana consumption, in general, and does not seek to regulate lawful ways of its acquisition
  • In some cases, observations show that the Constitutional Court’s decision are reflected in legislation with delays
  • The Constitutional Court itself, in some cases, unreasonably delays the decision-making process. In some cases, the court has not rendered a decision for 6 years
  • Some recent decisions by the Constitutional Court are problematic, in particular, they do not set out appropriate and clear guidelines for the development of care-oriented drug policies. The court also considers it permissible to use repressive measures against users of certain narcotic substances.


Footnote and Bibliography

[1] Harsh Punishment – The Human Toll of Georgia’s Abusive Drug Policies, short overview, Human Rights Watch, 2018, available at: https://rb.gy/ylieid, accessed: 26.10.2021.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

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