Georgian Opposition Leaders Facing 12 Years Prison For Planting Marijuana
An unprecedented act of civil disobedience took place on New Year’s eve in Tbilisi, Georgia. Leaders of the center-right party “Girchi,” along with several dozen civil activists, planted cannabis seeds on-air on the evening of 31 December, intentionally breaching the current law and facing 12 years imprisonment, according to the criminal code.
“By the act of civil disobedience, political Party “Girchi” is demanding decriminalization of all drugs and legalization of marijuana in Georgia,” declared party leaders, aired live by several broadcasters during New Year’s Eve program.
Despite the fact that in Georgia, the decision of the Constitutional Court in December 2016 abolished prison sentences for consumption and possession of small amounts of marijuana, punishments remain harsh, up to 12 year imprisonment terms for cultivation. Criminal charges and high fines for possession and consumption of marijuana still exist. In case of possession of club or hard drugs, citizens may face a prison sentence.
Around 50, 000 people annually are forced to take drug tests in Georgia. However, the consumption of illegal substances was found in only 35% of those tested. Around 17,000,000 GEL of taxpayers money (6,320,052 USD) was spent on drug tests during the last 7 years.
Act of Civil Disobedience
Before resorting to the radical form of protest, party leaders demanded several times that repressive laws be amended. In their statement, “Girchi” leaders warned that unless the country’s repressive drug policies were changed, they would publicly break the law by planting the cannabis publicly.
“For us – it is a struggle for freedom. We do not fight for smoking marijuana. In the end, it is for us to fight for freedom, fight for the fundamental human rights. A man’s body is his number one property and it is none of Government’s business what he does with his own body,” stressed Zurab Japaridze, founder of the party.
The act of civil disobedience gathered 77 activists from different regions of Georgia, including one US citizen. Party leaders along with activists planted the seeds in the paper cups, poured them with water and signed the cups with their own names. All activists showed full awareness of the consequences they may face for breaking the law, from 6 to 12 years of prison.
“They can arrest and even jail us, or they might ignore the action. In this case we will grow marijuana in the office, all the journalists will see it … and we will be giving commentaries for every TV on the background of marijuana plantation,” Japaridze declared.
Police didn’t show up in the office on New Years’ Eve, but as Ministry of Internal Affairs declared, they launched investigations into the “illegal planting” of cannabis by a organized group.