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People protest drug policy in Georgia

Violent Drug Policy Harms State Budget

Over the past months government members started active discussions on revision of current drug policy in the country.

Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and vice Prime Minister Kakha Kaladze made emphasis on necessity of revision of the current drug policy and urged the Parliament to accelerate process of adopting legislative amendments. It is interesting how much government spends today, as part of the existing drug policy, to fight this problem and what results the country receives.

According to Interior Ministry information, 37 503 persons were tested on drug in 2015, and 14 138 of them were identified as drug users. This signifies that suspicions of law enforcers justified only in 37% of examined citizens.

A total of 12 742 facts were registered in 2014. The statistics of drug tests due to years is as follows: 2012 – 21 749 facts, 2013 – 60 196 facts, 2014 – 50 865 cases. It should be noted that number of citizens, who were tested on drugs and identified as drug users, decreases year to year. According to Interior Ministry information, in the first half of 2016, only 27% of tested citizens were identified as drug users.

As to statistics of imposing fines for drug consumption, according to information of Supreme Court of Georgia, over the past years, a major part of citizens were fined for this administrative violation in 2013 – 13 572 persons. This indicator fell to 9 142 persons in 2014.

Number of detainees for use or/and buying, storing and sales of drugs considerably exceeds all sorts of crimes. In 2016, 37% of registered crimes were recorded for drug crimes.

According to indicator of Supreme Court of Georgia, in 2014, the most number of convicts were judged for drug consumption (4003), of which 24.3% were imprisoned, 52% were sentenced to conditional judgment and 20.1% were fined.

According to the 2014-2015 report prepared by Council of Europe, 30% of inmates were sentenced to imprisonment for drug consumption and this is the most widespread crime in the country.

According to Ministry of Corrections, in 2015 the Ministry spent 31.28 GEL to sustain one inmate a day. This signifies the Ministry spent annual 11 417 GEL to sustain one inmate throughout the year. As a result, the Ministry was to spend 30-40 million GEL on 30% of inmates imprisoned for drug crimes.

The Authorities spend more than 15 million GEL on drug tests and urine analysis. About 2 tons of urine are tested a year and we pay 6 000 GEL for testing a liter of urine.

To put simply, the authorities spend about 50 million GEL on drug tests and imprisoned drug users a year, excluding costs on law enforcers. Moreover, annual 5 million GEL is spent on assistance of drug addicts or/and prevention of this problem.

According to the 2014 budget of Ministry of Labor, Healthcare and Social Protection, 4 388 500 GEL was allocated for state drug program. In 2014 this sum was spent on supply of drug substitute methadone for 3000 beneficiaries, while 286 beneficiaries applied inpatient detoxification and rehabilitation component.

As to social campaigns against drug consumption, similar campaigns do not exist in practice. According to Interior Ministry website, Interior Ministry has conducted only campaign over the past years – campaign against Bio Drugs. In all developed countries drug addiction is considered to be a disease and governments spend huge funds to heal drug addicts, but in Georgia drug users are just imprisoned.

Volume of funds for healing drug addicts depend on condition of patients, however, doctor narcologists explain that rationale detoxification that lasts about 1 month costs about 2000-2500 GEL.

Moreover, drug addiction is healed by drug substitutes, the so-called methadone. Monthly cost of this substitute is 220 GEL and the course duration ranges from 2 months to 2 years. To put simply, treatment of one drug addict costs from 2000 GEL to 5000 GEL, while inmate sustenance in prisons exceeds 11 000 GEL.

These people lose chances for having normal job and achieving success in life after imprisonment. In prisons they are not healed and outside of prisons they become drug addicts again.

Every year the government treats less than 5% of drug addicts. Prison sustenance costs are 9 times higher compared to treatment costs. Punishment policy does not bring efficient results. 89% of convicts for illegal consumption of drugs return to using drugs again, after imprisonment, while 11% resumed drug consumption in 11 months. The stricter state policy, the higher the number of injection drug users.

In 2010, number of injection drug users was 40 000, in 2012 – 45 000 and in 2014 – 49 700.

Portugal has created the best history of revision of drug policy. This country was leader in number of drug addicts in Europe. The country ranked first in terms of overdose death toll.

The country was populated by a great number of drug addicts. For many years, the Authorities fought against drug addiction by fines and other punitive measures, but in vain. Number of drug addicts was not declining.

Starting 2002 Portugal radically changed drug policy and replaced violent attitudes by liberal and education-concentrated drug policy. The country directed budget funds to constructing rehabilitation centers and their valuable operation. As a result, number of drug users halved in Portugal and the former leader in drug consumption moved to the last position after Romania.

It should be also noted that experience of developed countries of Europe and the world suggests that drug policy liberalization brings only positive effects for  countries. Drug policy with focus on problem prevention, not on punishment, is more efficient.

Drug policy liberalization reduces number of drug consumers, reduces overdose volume, crimes and so on. A major part of developed countries do not punish drug users and try to help them through social workers.

A major part of our society agrees that Georgia’s drug policy cannot withstand criticism. Georgian Dream talked about necessity of drug policy revision during the 2012 election campaign. Four years have passed since then and nothing has changed since then, in practice.

Despite violent drug policy is inefficient and number of drug users grows every year, Parliament and Government do not take specific steps. As a result, state budget spends considerable funds on identification of drug users and their imprisonment compared to costs for their treatment.

By Merab Janiashvili
Economic Analyst
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