MOSCOW — Demonstrators rallied in Georgia over the weekend over an issue new to street protest movements in the former Soviet countries: a demand to legalize recreational drug use.
Though the protesters were quickly dismissed by their opponents as deadbeats and drug addicts bent only on keeping up their own habits, Georgia’s government took the movement seriously enough both to negotiate and to move water cannons into position in the streets of the capital, Tbilisi.
Drug laws in former Soviet countries, even those that in other ways lean politically toward the West, like Georgia, tend to be far harsher than in Western Europe.
The activist group behind the protests, White Noise, first formed in 2013 to defend a man facing eight years in prison for possessing about two ounces of marijuana. That case, against Beka Tsikarishvili, eventually ended with a fine, but White Noise has gained traction by rallying support for others facing long prison terms.