The ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia (GDDG) has decided to postpone discussions on the draft bill that would legalize cultivation of medical cannabis and its production for export.
The respective decision was passed by the parliamentary bureau – a body that takes decisions on putting the draft bills into review – yesterday. Even though the bill was initially sponsored by GDDG, the decision came as no surprise following a wave of church-led protests and opposition’s criticism.
In their press remarks today, GDDG lawmakers and officials stressed that while the review was postponed, the draft was not withdrawn.
MP Dimitri Tskitishvili said deferral “does not necessarily” mean that the bill would be adopted two months later, and that the period would allow more time for discussions with stakeholders. “To a certain degree, the election period limits the room for discussions,” he said.
MP Sopio Kiladze echoed the message, saying the pre-election period was not the right time for discussing the draft law, “especially in light of the black PR leveled against us.”
Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia commented on the decision as well, telling reporters that the authorities were not interested “in engaging into confrontation with any segments of the society.”
“What we plan to do is to bring our positions closer through explanation, healthy dialogue, discussions, which may, in some cases, be sharp,” he said, adding that “sooner or later,” the issue of cultivation will need to be regulated by state.
Reactions from the Orthodox Church
Metropolitan Shio Mujiri, Georgian Patriarch’s Locum Tenens, commented on the matter briefly, saying: “We hope the bill will be recalled entirely, as we have urged them to do.”
The remarks were echoed by Archpriest Andria Jagmaidze, a senior cleric in the Georgian Orthodox Church, who reiterated the patriarchate’s “absolutely negative position” on the draft bill. “If its propaganda [promotion] begins, it will be clear for us that discussions were suspended only temporarily, and that, in reality, they do not want to take the public opinion into account.”
Key presidential candidates from the opposition have slammed the decision as an attempt to mislead the public.
Grigol Vashadze of the UNM-led “Strength in Unity” coalition, who took a hard-line stance against the issue during the campaign, said the authorities were counting on passing the law after “rigging the elections.” “We will turn October 28 into a referendum on whether the country of an ancient culture will turn into a drug plantation for lining the pockets of GDDG patrons, at the expense of wiping out our future generations,” he noted. Vashadze promised to obstruct the passing of the law using “all legal instruments” when he wins the Presidency.
Davit Bakradze of the European Georgia also said that “lies” and “deceiving the public” were the two “trademarks” of the Georgian Dream party.
“When they saw how unanimous the public was in their opposition to legalization of marijuana and its plantations, they began to talk about possible withdrawal of the bill. Today they hope that the wave of negative reaction has subsided, that the public will no longer speak up, so they will push this issue forward after the [Presidential] elections,” he said, presenting the case as yet another example of why “this government should not be trusted.”