By LeeWEpstein

January 29, 2020

The sale, purchase, and consumption of cannabis are prohibited in Belgium. The prohibition policy is based on a 1921 law that is being questioned by many civil society actors in the face of public health issues, notably via the #Stop1921 campaign.

This movement calling for a non-market regulation of cannabis brings together dozens of associations from all over the country such as the Centre bruxellois de coordination sociopolitique, Fédito (the Brussels and Walloon federations of institutions for drug addicts which bring together institutions active in information, prevention, harm reduction, care, support…), Infor-Drogues, Mambo Social Club, Trekt Uw Plant, Doctors of the World…

These actors are now launching a petition in order to ask the legislator to define a legal framework for “cannabis social clubs”. These are associations of cannabis consumers, which help them to cultivate cannabis safely for their consumption. Also , Cannabis, whose cultivation is supervised, is managed and distributed to club members.

An alternative to prohibition

Almost for the last 100 years, Belgian law has regulated psychotropic products by criminalizing their use. The result? A policy “disconnected from current realities” that has “never reduced either supply or consumption”. The effects have been disastrous, particularly in terms of public health and congestion in the judicial system.

Meanwhile, Eurotox (the socio-epidemiological alcohol-drugs observatory in Wallonia and Brussels) estimates that the illegal cannabis market is worth several tens of millions of euros a year, linking it to various forms of crime, including arms trafficking.

The “cannabis social clubs”, therefore, represent a realistic and pragmatic alternative to prohibition, according to the signatories of the petition already endorsed by criminologists and lawyers (Tom Decorte, UGent; Christine Guillain de Saint-Louis-Bruxelles; Julien Pieret, ULB) and by MEPs (Eric Massin, PS; Sophie Rohonyi, Défi; Zoé Genot, Ecolo…).

Not for profit

In fact , the “cannabis social clubs” model is helping to regain control of a market currently in the hands of criminal networks, transparently supervising the entire chain. In addition , these clubs provide a forum for the dissemination of objective and reliable information on prevention and harm reduction. Budgets for law enforcement (police, courts, prisons) should allocate to a more sustainable drug policy between prevention, care, and prosecution of criminal networks.

Cannabis social clubs” are non-profit making, which limits the excesses of a purely commercial market, supports the petition.

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