The Georgian Constitutional Court has ruled that implementing prison time as a punishment for possessing or purchasing up to 70 grams of cannabis, for personal use, is unconstitutional. The court clarified that this decision does not decriminalize marijuana, and it does not apply to cases where the obvious purpose of possession, regardless of its amount, is to sell it.
Previously, possession of 70 grams of cannabis in the European nation of Georgia was punishable by jail time. The application that withdrew prison time as a punishment was filed by Beka Tsikarishvili, a man facing charges for a possession of 69 grams of marijuana.
After reviewing the application, Georgia’s Constitutional Court repealed imprisonment as punishment in such cases, deeming it “inhuman and cruel treatment that infringes upon human dignity.” Any punishment defined as such conflicts with the second part of article 17 of the country’s constitution.
“For those, who have already been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment in similar cases, the Constitutional Court’s ruling represents a legal basis for appealing common court for the purpose of reviewing their cases,”
Stated the Tbilisi-based Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center which provided legal counsel for the case.
Marijuana is commonly used for medicinal purposes on Tasmania, the island state in the Commonwealth of Australia. Last week, an interim parliamentary report recommended that the use of medical marijuana be decriminalized immediately. Today, that request has already been rejected by parliament.
A government committee, lead by chairwoman Ruth Forrest, had been investigating medical marijuana use in the state since July so that an accurate report could be presented to parliament. Over the course of three days, twenty-three different testimonies were heard on the matter from current users and field experts. Seventy-seven patient submissions were also received by the committee during this time. The committee concluded that current laws no longer agree with what the people believe. The people want to at least decriminalize the medicinal use of cannabis.
The committee’s recommendation for immediate, compassionate, action was submitted just one week ago. The committee found that marijuana was used widely throughout the island to control epilepsy and other conditions as well as to treat pain and nausea. The report recommends decriminalizing the use of medical marijuana so that those using the plant medicinally do not not add possible prosecution their suffering. The report also recommended establishing legislative action to legalize a personal cultivation and caregiver program for the island state.
The government has decided not to move forward with immediate legislative action as recommended by the committee. Michael Ferguson, the state’s health minister, stated that legislation will not be updated at this time. However, parliament did agree to look into the matter. The investigative committee intends to continue building a case through hearing and recording testimony from patients and medical experts.
photo credit: Daily News
Today cannabis remains a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, just as it has been for forty-four years. Testimony challenging this classification will be heard by a federal judge in California on Monday October 27, 2014.
To be classified a Schedule I drug, a substance must meet the following criteria:
- has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States
- has a high potential for abuse
- has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision
In 2014, nearly half of the United States have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, yet it is still classified federally as having no currently accepted medical use. There are over two million registered medical marijuana patients with physician recommendations that could argue against the “lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision” point as well. Also, the United States government is listed as owner of at least one medical marijuana patent.
Testimonies from both sides on the issue of the constitutionality of the current classification will be heard in the hearing.
The government is expected to use Bertha Madras, Ph.D. as its expert witness to defend the current Schedule I classification. Madras, a decorated scholar, is currently a Professor of Psychobiology and the chair of the Division of Neurochemistry at Harvard Medical School. She is also well known for her service under President George W. Bush as the Deputy Director for Demand Reduction for the National Drug Control Policy. Madras has publicly advocated against marijuana throughout her career. In her declaration to the court, Madras states that she is in no way paid or employed by the U.S. government to support cannabis remaining a Schedule I drug. Madras has an incredible amount of research experience under her belt, so perhaps her bank account should be checked for deposits from Big Pharma instead.
Personal stories are expected to be shared with the judge by written declarations, in support of cannabis having medicinal uses. Paul Armentano, NORML, wrote that a declaration from a war veteran and his experience with marijuana will be shared. The experience that the mother of a child with epilepsy has gained from the use of medical marijuana is also expected to be shared.
Testifying in support of rescheduling marijuana to a different drug class is Dr. Carl Hart, Associate Professor of Psychology at Columbia University, Greg Carter, Director of St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute, and retired medical doctor Phillip Denny. These professionals all agree that cannabis needs to be rescheduled to a classification that admits medicinal use.
The hearing starts Monday in California, and is estimated to last for three days.
photo credit: SFStation, Matthew Kenwrick