Georgian Church Objects to Cannabis Cultivation for Export

The Georgian Orthodox Church has come out against the governmental initiative which envisages legalizing marijuana cultivation only for export purposes for pharmaceutical and cosmetic products.

The clerics say that the Church sees many risks in this initiative, claiming that if cultivation is licensed, it will be very hard for the State to control its production and distribution. They also say it will increase the number of drug-addicts in the country.

The Patriarchate held a conference "Drug Policy, Challenges and International Experience in Georgia," where the possible threats and risk of the cultivation of cannabis were discussed by the clergymen.

“There are a lot of threats connected with this initiative and let us, the clerics, speak about it. We are not a repressive organization. We care about our country’s future,” Father Giorgi Pirtskheliani said.

He noted the controversy regarding marijuana in general started when the Constitutional Court of Georgia abolished punishment for the personal consumption of cannabis in July.

Metropolitan of the Vani and Bagdadi Eparchy Bishop Anton told media after the conference that Georgia's image will be significantly damaged in the world’s eye if the government implements their initiative.

“It is well-defined that drugs negatively affect people. I have a feeling that we all agree separately, but we are a hostage to something. We have created something that can wash us away. Our Georgian image will be damaged. We have never been known as illegal drug dealers and it will be a step back if this initiative is adopted. We ask the parliamentary majority to reject this initiative,” he said.

Bodbe Archbishop Jakob says the Church is not going to stay in the shadows on this. According to him, the government is unable to secure the borders of the country and it will not be able to impose limits on marijuana cultivation if it becomes legal.

“The government should think about the country’s security and not only count the money…We have been in economic hardship for a long time and instead of legalizing marijuana, we’d do better to think about the economic development of the country,” he stated.

The Archbishop believes that if Georgia starts cultivating marijuana, there will be a threat from the occupied territories and Russia to obtain these territories.

“When 20% of our territories is occupied by Russia, it will blame us for being the source of drugs and will invade us…I do not want to sound negative, but the government had better give up on their initiative or they will see the power of the Church,” he stated at the conference, held on September 12.

Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze assures that the draft of legislative amendments regarding marijuana consumption does not leave any space for speculation.

“Legalization of marijuana is excluded…The bill, which will be submitted to Parliament in the near future, puts consumption and cultivation of marijuana within strict frames. Its cultivation will be allowed for export, directed towards medical and entrepreneurial consumption: this is provided by the draft law,” he explained.

The Minister of Internal Affairs, Giorgi Gakharia, stated after the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, that a special agency will be set up for licensing marijuana cultivation.

“The agency will identify the specific licensing conditions and issue licenses for various activities, including production, growing, processing, etc. This will be a strictly regulated activity, which will have its own regulator and involve the toughest and most effective control mechanisms," said the Minister.

On July 30, the Constitutional Court of Georgia declared that the administrative punishment for use of the drug marijuana was unconstitutional when consumption does not create any threat to third parties - effectively legalizing the consumption of marijuana.

However, later the court explained that this does not mean legalization of marijuana in the country. Storage, distribution and cultivation of cannabis is still punishable.


 By Thea Morrison



14 September 2018 08:01