Georgia has quietly become the next country to legalize cannabis use after action from the nation’s Constitutional Court on Monday. The court’s ruling was handed down in a lawsuit brought by political activists. The decision eliminates administrative penalties such as fines as punishment for the consumption of marijuana. However, the court’s ruling does not legalize cannabis cultivation or sales in the nation of nearly 4 million people at the crossroads of Asia and Europe.
In the lawsuit, plaintiffs Zurab Japaridze and Vakhtang Megrelishvili contended that the use of cannabis is a personal decision that does not put others at risk.
“It can only harm the health of the consumer, who is responsible for the results of the action,” the lawsuit read.
Constitutional Court Agrees
In its ruling, the panel of four judges agreed, deciding that the use of cannabis is not a threat to society at large.
“According to the applicants (Zurab Japaridze and Vakhtang Megrelishvili), the consumption of marijuana is not an act of social threat,” the court said. “In particular, it can only harm the users’ health, making that user him/herself responsible for the outcome. The responsibility for such actions does not cause dangerous consequences for the public.”
However, the court also found that there are some situations where cannabis consumption can affect those in the proximity of the user. In those cases, administrative penalties for the use of cannabis do not violate the nation’s constitution and may continue to be imposed by the government.
“In addition, the Constitutional Court highlights the imposition of responsibility of marijuana consumption when it creates a threat to third parties. For instance, the Court will justify responsibility when marijuana is consumed in educational institutions, public places, such as on public transport, and in the presence of children,” the court continued.
Court Decriminalized Pot Last Year
Monday’s decision by the Constitutional Court of Georgia follows a ruling last year that effectively decriminalized cannabis use. The court ruled then that harsher sanctions were not constitutional for the use of marijuana and other forms of cannabis.
But the court at that time upheld the right of the government to impose administrative penalties such as fines for cannabis consumption. Monday’s ruling now protects marijuana use in private settings.
Activists Celebrate Ruling
After the court’s ruling, plaintiff Zurab Japaridze recognized the activists who had made the lawsuit possible.
“I would like to congratulate everybody on the decision made by the Constitutional Court,” Japaridze said. “Through this decision, Georgia became a freer country. Administrative punishment for consumption of marijuana was revoked by the Constitutional Court, which means that consumption of marijuana in Georgia is now legal.”
Japaridze is the leader and a founder of the The New Political Centre—Girchi party, a liberal political group that split from the United National Movement is 2016. In April, he announced his intention to run for president of Georgia in the elections to be held later this year in October.
After Monday’s ruling, Japaridze said the lawsuit was a matter of personal liberty.
“This wasn’t a fight for cannabis, this was a fight for freedom,” he said.