The Constitutional Court of Georgia announced its decision on the case of “Beqa Tsiqarishvili v. the Parliament of Georgia”, in which Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC) represented the plaintiff.
The subject of the dispute was the constitutionality of the sentence (the plaintiff was accused for the purchase and possession of 69 gr. Marijuana for personal purposes) as defined by the Georgian criminal code, more precisely, of the words in the second part of the Article 260 “is sentenced to 7 to 14 years of imprisonment” with regards to the Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution of Georgia, as well as, the paragraph 2 of the Article 17.
The Constitutional Court accepted the case for review only in the light of the paragraph 2 of the Article 17, which prohibits the use of cruel and degrading punishment.
Following the changes in the legislation on June 8, 2015, the sentence for the purchase and possession of big amount (from 50 to 100 gr.) of marijuana for personal purposes was reduced from 5 to 8 years (as opposed to 7 to 14 years of imprisonment). Despite this change, the plaintiff argued that it is generally unconstitutional to sentence to imprisonment for the purchase and possession of marijuana for personal purposes and that it represents inadequately harsh, disproportional and subsequently, cruel, degrading punishment for this sort of action.
The Constitutional Court reviewed the case in terms of whether the sentence defined by the disputed provision is adequate to the committed act in terms of public threat. The Court found, despite the harmful effects of marijuana, it unacceptable to use imprisonment for any period of time, as a punishment for the purchase and possession of marijuana for personal purposes. It must be noted that the court didn’t discuss decriminalization of the usage of marijuana, since this wasn’t the subject of the dispute. The court also noted that the decision is not related to the cases of selling drugs, or sales goals, or the situation in which the amount of purchased/stored marijuana is so big that it is likely to indicate a goal of selling the drug.
After the full text of the court’s decision is published, it will be possible to learn more about the court’s arguments and to say what would be the legal consequence of this decision for the cases with similar circumstances.
Although, it is already clear that even if Beqa Tsiqarishvili is found guilty, the court will not be able to use detention as a means of punishment. It will also be impossible to sentence anyone to imprisonment in the ongoing cases, in which a person is accused for purchasing/possession of marijuana up to 70 gr. for personal purposes. For those who had been already found guilty by the courts for the mentioned offense and had been sentenced to imprisonment, the decision by the Constitutional Court is a legal base for appealing to the court for reviewing their cases.
Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)
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