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Briefing paper: Drug Control in Georgia: Drug Testing and the Reduction of Drug Use?

The Republic of Georgia has experienced rapid economic, political and social change after the gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Drug-related affairs are no exception. The scale of the illicit drug market has increased, drug use has become more common and the citizens’ attitude towards drugs has diversified. As a consequence, the government has been forced to respond to these challenges. Today Georgian drug policy, at least at the rhetorical level, endorses a balanced approach. In reality, however, preference has been given to law enforcement interventions. Prominent among them is coerced drug testing. Under measures introduced in 2006 the consequences of a positive test result include the imposition of severe fines and the confiscation of assets. While apparently increasing government income, the policy has proven to be problematic and failed to reduce the availability of illicit drugs within Georgia. Recently there have been promising signs of change. For instance an unprecedented amnesty was promised to incarcerated drug users and President Mikheil Saakashvili announced the possibility of shifting the focus of drug policy away from its predominantly law enforcement orientation. General elections are to be held in May 2008 and it is hoped that the new Parliament and the Government will be truly committed to recalibrating the current Georgian drug policy to be more just and humane. This would be a timely move. After reviewing the evidence, the authors of this paper argue that, despite hopes for European Union (EU) membership, the national drug policy of the Republic of Georgia is currently well behind EU standards and requirements, and lacks a balanced, science-based and integrated approach.

The Republic of Georgia has experienced rapid economic, political and social change after the gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Drug-related affairs are no exception. The scale of the illicit drug market has increased, drug use has become more common and the citizens’ attitude towards drugs has diversified. As a consequence, the government has been forced to respond to these challenges. Today Georgian drug policy, at least at the rhetorical level, endorses a balanced approach. In reality, however, preference has been given to law enforcement interventions. Prominent among them is coerced drug testing. Under measures introduced in 2006 the consequences of a positive test result include the imposition of severe fines and the confiscation of assets. While apparently increasing government income, the policy has proven to be problematic and failed to reduce the availability of illicit drugs within Georgia.