TBILISI, DFWatch – The government in the former Soviet republic of Georgia is liberalizing its policy on drug addiction.

According to authorities, drug addiction will no longer be considered a crime. Drug abuse will still be punished with fines, but the money from such fines will be earmarked for financing a new alternative rehabilitation center for people struggling with drug addiction.

First Deputy Prosecutor Davit Sakvarelidze says that the changes do not mean a liberalization towards drug dealers. The government will maintain a tough policy in this regard.

According to the prosecutor’s office, 77% of those questioned think law enforcement’s policy towards drug crime is acceptable.

Their data indicate that drug crime has decreased by 53% compared to 2007. Despite this, 33% of those questioned consider drug addiction the biggest problem in society.

Sakvarelidze claims their data shows that the number of drug related crime among youth has decreased.

When it comes to the drug flow, his data indicates that hard drugs like heroin is less in circulation on the black market than before.

The most serious drugs on the domestic market in Georgia is synthetic drugs like subutex, which is smuggled to here from Europe. The consumption of such drugs has increased, according to the Georgian Prosecutor General’s office.

Heroin however passes through Georgia in large quantities. A UN study from 2009 estimated that 30 per cent of the heroin exported from Afghanistan is trafficked through Iran, part of which continues through Georgia, which Iran has an agreement about visa-freedom with.

The U.S. State Department writes in one of its recent reports that a key role in the transit might be “T.I.R.”-marked semi-trailers, which authorities must go through a complicated procedure to be allowed to stop, and therefore just let pass through undisturbed. Police have made drug busts on the EU’s borders at Black Sea ports with semi-trailers carrying Afghan heroin which had come through Georgia, arriving in the EU by ferry.