Finance Minister Predicts GEL 1 bln Profit from Marijuana Export

Georgia’s Finance Minister, Ivane Machavariani, has said that if the government implements the marijuana cultivation reform for export purposes, in the near future Georgia can expect to see at least GEL 1 billion in profit.

The Minister made the statement during an interview with Imedi TV, noting that Georgia could be a “significant player on this market,” as it is connected to new technologies.

“From year to year, the production of cannabis is growing rapidly and according to various forecasts, in 2024-2025, it will reach around $25 billion,” he said.

The Minister noted that the cannabis culture is old but the industry itself is quite new, hence the desire of the Georgian government to jump on the band wagon.

“We want to increase our export potential and gain significant profit, which is of utmost importance for our economy,” he added.

Machavariani states the cultivation of cannabis would only be for export and for medical purposes. He added that it is hard to make exact calculations as to how much profit the country could potentially get.

“We assume that around two billion GEL would be seen in the next two to three years, though I would be very happy if this figure was higher,” he added.

Last week, the government announced that they plan to legalize marijuana cultivation only for export purposes for pharmaceutical and cosmetic products.

The draft was prepared and presented to the cabinet members by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA). According to the draft, marijuana production will be announced as a licensed activity.

Presumably, the licensing conditions will define the geographical area, quantity and other issues related to marijuana production in Georgia.

The Minister of Internal Affairs, Giorgi Gakharia, stated a special agency would 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.

The issue has become highly controversial, especially after the Georgian Orthodox Church came out with a strong objection to the initiative.

“We must not regard profit alone. Why do we need such an economy if we lose our children?” Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II said of the recent developments surrounding marijuana.

As the Patriarch said in his Sunday sermon, the authorities should look into the above-mentioned process with great responsibility.

"We must remember that this is dangerous because drug addicts from other countries will come here and enjoy this freedom. This will promote the spread of drug abuse in Georgia,” he added.

After the Church voiced its position, Georgia’s Parliament Speaker, Irakli Kobakhidze, announced that discussions over the issue in the legislative body have been delayed, in order to launch consultations.

“Georgian society must be wholly informed about the content of such issues. We need time do so and accordingly we have decided to discuss the issue in two phases,” said the Chairman of Parliament, adding this week only amendments to marijuana use will be discussed by the MPs.

By Thea Morrison

17 September 2018 20:12