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Georgia's government has halted moves to legalise medical marijuana cultivation after protests led by the country's powerful Orthodox church.

Parliament speaker Irakli Kobakhidze told reporters the authorities would not take any "hasty decisions" but rather try to get its message across to the public, the .

"False information is being spread, so we need to pay particular attention to informing the public, and then take the decision together," he said, adding that opponents of the cannabis bill had "misled" Georgians into thinking it meant all drug restrictions would simply be dropped.

The interior ministry confirmed earlier this month that it wanted to approve the cultivation of medical cannabis strictly for export, emphasising that the sale of marijuana in Georgia itself "will remain a criminal offence", reported.

The row over the seemingly-innocuous bill blew up in the wake of a dramatic over police drug raids that activists said targeted gay-friendly night clubs in the capital Tbilisi.

The libertarian New Political Centre Girchi party launched a legal challenge to the drugs laws on the back of the protests, and the Constitutional Court .

The government denied any anti-LGBT agenda, but for the Church and its allies the whole question of drugs is tied up with their opposition to gay rights.

Fr Andria Jaghmaidze, who often puts the Church point of view across to the media, told the BBC that "LGBT propaganda promotes a drastically liberalised drugs policy that ".

The news about the cannabis cultivation bill prompted expressions of concern by senior bishops, culminating in a forthright sermon on Sunday by , the head of the Orthodox Church.

"The authorities need to take responsibility for this matter. It should not be handed over to the private sector. If it is, it will be hard to control it, and drug addicts will start coming here from foreign countries to enjoy the freedom," he thundered.

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