NGO: Georgian Drug Policy Mismatches National Strategy

The Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), a Non-Governmental Organization, published a statistical analysis of drug-related crimes, saying the existing legislation and practice related to drug policy in Georgia is in opposition to both international standards and the declared national strategy.

According to the NGO, the strategy outlines the goals of reducing supply and demand, education regarding the reduction of harmful effects, and rehabilitation, but in contrast, the existing practice is to a large extent oriented towards punishing drug user.

In 2015, IDFI also published a statistical data and indicated the absence of a minimal margin for the use of a number of drugs, resulting in criminal prosecution even for the possession of a miniscule amount of drugs with the purpose of future use. It also pointed out the necessity of rehabilitation programs for drug users.

The organization says the same problems remain unresolved in 2018. IDFI analyzed statistical data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs from 2013 to 2017 and revealed that in the last 4 years, the number of registered drug-related criminal cases declined by 34%; from 7,312 cases in 2014 to 4,762 cases in 2017. In the same period, 92-93% of these cases were closed, which is one of the highest percentages among criminal cases in Georgia.

Also, the NGO says in 2013-2017, the amount of administrative offences related to the acquisition, possession or use of drugs declined threefold.

According to IDFI, in 2014-2017, the number of persons taken for drug testing declined almost five times while the number of persons showing a positive result in the test declined threefold.

“This trend should be evaluated positively, although, because this policy of the Government is not predicated on legislation, the trend might change at any time. In order to avoid this, it is vital to stop the criminal prosecution of drug users on the legislative level in the shortest possible time,” the organization stressed.

However, the share of persons showing a positive result on drug use as a result of a drug test increased from a quarter to one half of all test.

IDFI says that the United Nations believe mandatory testing  is not based on proof, it violates the right to privacy, bears the appearance of social control, some tests mistakenly show positive results and are never verified, testing does not allow the differentiation of drug users and drug addicts.”

The NGO says in 2016 only 10 people were arrested for distributing drugs, and 36 people – in 2017.

“Such a vast difference in numbers of people arrested for drug use and drug distribution raises questions regarding the priorities of the drug policy of the country,” the organization stated.

By Thea Morrison

04 May 2018 10:30