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The Belgian Cannabis Discussion: A Step Towards Modernizing A National Drug Policy

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The country between Holland and Luxembourg is now caught up in its own re-examination of its cannabis policy.

Belgium may be finally moving to formalize its cannabis policy. The country of 11.5 million people is far from the front lines of even the European cannabis debate – but that might now be changing as the Senate approves an evaluation of a 100-year-old drug law.

In late February, a law case made headlines in the European cannapress. On February 24th, on a ruling on appeal, the eleven ex-members of the oldest cannabis social club in the country – Trekt Uw Plant – were found guilty of cannabis cultivation and sale but were released without further charges. The decision is being hailed as the final legal nail in the coffin for the country’s existing drug law.

The club itself has a long history. It was founded in 2006, as the first Belgian social club, three years after the first real reform in the country (individuals could possess one female plant for personal consumption). The club was subsequently prosecuted twice – in 2008 and 2010 – but exonerated both times. Indeed, the Public Prosecutors office declared in 2012 that it was bound to accept the activities of the club. However, in 2017, three members were arrested leading to the prosecution of twenty individuals and jail terms of 20 months each. This final legal action, no matter the final release and essential pardon of those convicted, financially ruined the organization.

Where to Go from Here?

Cannabis is one of the most popular controlled substances in the country. Technically the plant is still illegal, however, adults over the age of 18 can possess 3 grams. In 2015, a royal decree allowed for the medical use of cannabis but was limited to Sativex only (a pharmaceutical produced by the British company GW Pharma).

Further, it is very clear that the Belgian model is now in the same area, both legally and commercially of both the Spanish and Dutch model – namely still in a grey part of the law. Further, it is also increasingly clear that this situation cannot continue forever, particularly given moving case law and sovereign decisions of neighbouring European countries.

In the next 12-24 months, in other words, look for a new policy shift on the Belgian front – and further in a direction that may create another canna-friendly regime – or at least more of one, in yet another member state of the EU.

Be sure to book your tickets for the upcoming International Cannabis Business Conference events in Europe this summer!