Georgia on its way to a less punitive and more human rights and health-centered drug policy?
 

Member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy Michel Kazatchkine, former Executive Director of Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, and Pavel Bém, former Mayor of Prague, have been visiting Georgia to meet with the Ministers of Justice, of Labor, Health and Social Affairs, and of Education and Science, as well as the Speaker of Parliament, civil society and people who use drugs at a time when the Parliament of Georgia is currently engaged in a promising debate to reform its drug laws and possibly by ending the criminalization of possession  for personal use. The visit was organized by the Open Society Georgia Foundation Public Health Program.

In light of these reforms, Commissioners Kazatchkine and Bém highlighted the Global Commission on Drug Policy's 2016 report Advancing Drug Policy Reform: a new approach to drug decriminalization. This report details the destructive and harmful consequences of the punitive approach to drug policy. It shows how ending punishment does not mean encouraging or condoning the use of drugs, but rather it empowers individuals and communities, promotes better prevention and easier access to treatment, and builds confidence between the State and the citizens.

Commissioner Kazatchkine said, "Georgia has been implementing an effective harm reduction program for over ten years ago. Access to clean needles and to methadone have allowed a progressive reduction in new HIV infections among people who use drugs. Decriminalizing drug use and possession will further contribute to allowing people to access these life-saving services without fear of legal coercion."

Commissioner Bém said, "The Czech Republic decriminalized the use and possession of drugs over a decade ago, with very positive results. On this visit we shared our experiences and those of our colleagues at the Global Commission, to contribute to the current debate on defining appropriate drug policies that are adapted to the particular environment and needs of Georgian people."

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About the Global Commission on Drug Policy

The Global Commission on Drug Policy was established in 2011 by political leaders, cultural figures, and globally influential personalities from the financial and business sectors. The Commission currently comprises 24 members, including 12 former Heads of States or Government, a former Secretary-General of the United Nations and three Nobel Peace Prize laureates. Its mission is to promote evidence-based drug policy reforms at international, national and regional levels. These reforms must promote public health, social integration and safety goals, with a strict regard for human rights.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy has issued seven reports, beginning in 2011 with War on Drugs, which details the extent of the failure and damage of five decades of prohibition and punitive measures. In 2014, Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work emphasized public health approaches, alternatives to incarceration, and decriminalization, as well as calling for the legal regulation of psychoactive substances. In 2016, Advancing Drug Policy Reform: a new approach to decriminalization examined in more depth the benefits of decriminalization and calls for an end to all civil and criminal penalties for drug consumption and possession for personal use.

Three other reports by the Global Commission on Drug Policy are more focused on how prohibitive drug control negatively impacts public health issues: HIV/AIDS (How the Criminalization of Drug Use Fuels the Global Pandemic, 2012), Hepatitis C (The Hidden Hepatitis C Epidemic, 2013) and creates barriers for access to essential medicines for pain and palliative care in countries around the world where they are desperately needed (The Global Crisis of Avoidable Pain, 2015).

In October 2017, the Global Commission released a Position Paper on the Opioid Crisis in North America, offering recommendations on how to mitigate the unprecedented overdose epidemic in the US and Canada.

The Global Commission's most recent 2017 report, The World Drug PERCEPTION Problem - Countering prejudices about people who use drugs, analyzes the most common perceptions and fears surrounding drugs, contrast them with available evidence on drugs and the people who use them, and provides recommendations on changes that must be enacted to support reforms toward more effective drug policies.

 

 


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