Patriarch Condemns Marijuana Legalization

This week, the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Ilia II, made a statement on the July 30 decision by the Georgian Constitutional Court that legalized the consumption of marijuana.

During his Sunday sermon, the Patriarch (formally His Holiness and Beatitude, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II) said that those who pushed for drug legalization exercised hostility towards the nation. He also claimed that the decision was made under political pressure.

“Recently, a great anxiety has arisen in Georgia – the use of drugs and marijuana has been legalized. This is a big mistake. We need to remember that the need for narcotics does not stop at one level, as time passes the human body requires more serious drugs and cannot take care of itself. We should remember that permission for drug consumption is hostility towards our nation. I am convinced that those who granted this permission for drug consumption do not agree with it themselves, but they are under pressure and were forced to make this decision. We must not forget that if we allow drugs, we should allow the drug trade and drug production. The main thing is that this will lead young people from neighboring countries to come [to Georgia] and create a whole center of drugs. Therefore, I appeal to everyone, first of all our government, our intellectuals and our youth: take care of our homeland, take care of our children! I urge you once again – do not let our children die, do not allow this lawlessness. God has given you strength and wisdom,” the Patriarch preached.

Immediately after the decision, Georgian Orthodox clerics spoke out against the judges, even calling for the complete abolition of the Constitutional Court. Archpriest Andria Jagmaidze made a statement on behalf of the Georgian Orthodox Church, saying the four judges of the Constitutional Court “had no right” to make such an important decision on behalf of 4 million Georgians. “The Constitutional Court is not a necessary attribute of a democratic state: the future of our children, students, and schoolchildren is based on the judgement of just four people,” he argued. Jagmaidze added that the Georgian Patriarchate plans to appeal to the Georgian government to abolish the Constitutional Court.

Several clerics held a press-conference on August 1 echoing Jagmaidze’s statement. Priest David Nozadze called for a public referendum on marijuana legalization, “Let us ask our society what they prefer” he said, “These four judges should apologize for making such a decision.” Archpriest David Kvlividze took to calling names, claiming that people who consume marijuana are “sick” and saying, “This is an anti-national decision and will actually destroy the nation.”

Deputy Parliament Speaker Tamar Chugoshvili responded to the Georgian Orthodox clerics, saying "We have the right to like something or not but talks about the abolition of the Court are absolutely inappropriate.” Some clerics, however, defended the Constitutional Court as a necessary component of the Georgian state, saying its abolition would be a mistake.

Zurab Japaridze and Vakhtang Megrelishvili, representatives of the political party Girchi, brought the case to the Constitutional Court that resulted in the legalization. The Court reasoned that permission to consume marijuana protects a person's right to free development, while prohibiting consumption is an action directed against its turnover, while the role of an individual user in the support of marijuana circulation is very small, and consequently the threats from individual consumption are likewise small. After the decision, Japaridze called Georgia “a freer country.”

In his Christmas sermon this January, the Patriarch called for a more effective, tolerant drug policy in Georgia. After consumption of marijuana was decriminalized in November 2017, the Patriarch urged Georgians to be more compassionate towards drug addicts, and called on the Georgian government "to work out new drug policies that would prevent young people from using drugs and create a negative attitude towards that dire disease."

By Samantha Guthrie

09 August 2018 19:07