Georgian Church successfully blocks issue of production, exportation of marijuana

Clergy protests brought results: Authorities have suspended the bill on the production of marijuana

Tbilisi, September 18, 2018

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The Georgian Parliament has postponed its consideration of a bill on the rules for the cultivation of marijuana in the country, the production of cosmetic and pharmacological products from it, and its exportation, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze told reporters, according to Sputnik-Georgia.

The postponement comes after clergy protests and the stated disapproval of the Georgian Orthodox Church, the nation’s most trusted “institution,” with an 84% approval rating.

The initiative to legalize the cultivation of marijuana came after the legalization of smoking the drug, which also evoked protest from the Church, which called it “nothing other than a betrayal of the nation.”

Some Georgian deputies, including the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party have already refused to support the initiative because of the Church’s position. “We have had meetings with representatives of the Patriarchate. These consultations will necessarily continue, and we will make a decision on the basis of these consultations,” Kobakhidze stated.

Instead for now, Parliament will begin considering amendments related only to smoking marijuana. The drug was legalized by Georgia’s Constitutional Court in late July, after which the Ministry of the Interior announced its intentions to limit the consumption of marijuana and to allow its cultivation and exportation. The Georgian Parliament is now rushing to fill the void left by the court’s decision, to make rules governing the consumption of marijuana.

The Speaker’s statement was preceded by a protest held on Saturday in the center of Tbilisi by representatives of the Georgian Orthodox Church. His Holiness Patriarch-Catholicos Ilia II of Georgia then addressed the topic in his Sunday sermon, after which another hundreds of faithful marched from the Liturgy to the city council building, “where priests and monks read prayers to express their opposition against marijuana,” according to Radio Liberty.

“The government should take responsibility and control the situation. This industry [marijuana production—Sputnik] should not move into the private sector. If this happens, then we won’t be able to control the process. There is now a question about the development of legislation. This legislation should say that the government is responsible for this process,” the patriarch said.

The beloved first hierarch also warned of the dangers of drug abuse in Georgia: “We must remember that it is dangerous. It is dangerous because drug addicts from other countries will come here and enjoy this freedom. Thus, drug addiction will become even more widespread in Georgia. That is why I want to ask our authorities to look at this with greater responsibility. They mustn’t look only at the economy... Why do we need such an economy if we lose our children?”

Pat. Ilia also spoke out after the Constitutional Court legalized marijuana, saying, “We must remember that permission to use drugs is enmity towards our nation. I am certain that the people who gave this permission for drugs themselves do not agree, but the pressure was so great, and the weight upon them that they were forced to make this ruling.

The Church also recently held a conference, “Drug Policy, Challenges and International Experience in Georgia,” where the possible threats and risk of the cultivation of marijuana were discussed by the clergymen, reports Georgia Today.

“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,” Fr. Giorgi Pirtskheliani said.

Metropolitan Anton of Vani and Bagdadi told media after the conference that Georgia’s image would be significantly damaged if the state begins producing and exporting marijuana.

“It is well [known] 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.

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