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Gov’t Withdraws Marijuana Export Bill Ahead of Runoff

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, November 5
The Government of Georgia has decided to withdraw the marijuana export bill ahead of the second round of presidential elections.

The decision came after Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia and Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze’s meeting with Patriarch Ilia II on Friday.

Gakharia, the head of the body which initiated marijuana export for medical and cosmetic purposes, told the media after the meeting that the issue has become the target of political speculations and caused negative attitude in public, which became the key reason for the withdrawal.

Kobakhidze did not hide that the government decision was “somehow related to the elections,” and stated that the Georgian Dream supported independent candidate Salome Zurabishvili has heard “many negatives” around the initiative when she had meetings with voters.

The opposition believes that the government has made the concession to help Zurabishvili win in the runoff, which will be supposedly held in November, as there was only 0,9 percent of the difference between Zurabishvili and the opposition supported presidential candidate Grigol Vashadze in the first round of the race.

The Interior Ministry presented the marijuana export bill in September. Later former PM, founder of the Georgina Dream ruling party, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili stated that he participated in the drafting of the initiative which could have brought a billion USD at least in the state budget.

Georgian PM Mamuka Bakhtadze openly supported the initiative and vowed that marijuana cultivation and export would be under the strong control of the Interior Ministry.

However, the Georgian church and others strongly opposed the bill by saying that it could make a negative influence on the young generation and that the government would lose control of marijuana cultivation.

Several days before the first round of 28 October elections Ivanishvili said that the Georgian people and their views were of the highest importance and if the patriarchate persuaded the government that the bill could cause any harm, it would have been withdrawn.

None of the presidential candidates could receive 51 percent of votes in the first round that is why the second round of elections will be held between Zurabishvili and Vashadze as they received most of the votes.