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Good News from Belgium

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Belgium considers the best way to manage cannabis, by legalizing maximum
five grams, to be exempt from punishment in the near future. By Helmut
Hetzel, translated from German by Blair Anderson

Brussels - The Belgian government wants its drug policy to obviously follow
that of the Netherlands model.

The liberal Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt and the Brussels coalition of
Liberals, Socialists and Greens, led by him, plan to make the change next
year. (MarijuanaNews note: Belgium is divided between the Dutch speaking
Flemish in the North and the French speaking Walloons in the south, a
volatile mixture.

This move is very significant for several reasons.

First, the Dutch are no longer alone. This will take a lot of pressure off
of them.

Second, Brussels, the Belgian capital, is also the capital of the European
Community, so what happens there is highly visible to all of Europe.

Third, this adds momentum to the legalization move in all of Europe.

This policy has been evolving for sometime.) See Swiss Commission Denounces
Marijuana Prosecutions As "An Arbitrary Act of Coercion". and Belgium And
Italy Move to Decriminalize Cannabis and We Are Winning: Jamaica To
Establish National Commission On Ganja; Dutch, Germans and Swiss to Hold
Conference in the Spring.

They plan to exempt from punishment possession, consumption and trade of up
to max. five grams hashish or marijuana. (MarijuanaNews note: The "trade"
part is really important. It is not yet clear if they will follow the
"coffeeshop" model, or will allow some other sort of outlets.)

The Belgian government has noted the common practice in Holland for more
than 20 years that smoking joints as well as the possession of and the
trade of maximum of five grams of cannabis are not any longer criminally
pursued. (MarijuanaNews note: Actually, the Dutch allow possession of up to
30 grams, but limit sales to five grams per coffeeshop visit. They used to
allow sales of 30 grams, but reduced the limit to five grams to appease
their neighbors. They now allow coffeeshops to carry an inventory of 500
grams, but have not yet formalized the supply.) See Dutch Parliament
Surprises Its Own Government -- Votes to "Legalize" Cultivation of
Marijuana - By One Vote.

The reformers are examining two desired possibilities:

In one version, the Belgian government wants to tolerate the consumption of
soft drugs such as Hashish and Marijuana, but with it still technically
illegal. (MarijuanaNews note: This is essentially the Dutch practice.)

Also the police will also have the right after reform of the drug laws to
be able to intervene against the consumption of soft drugs in exceptional
cases if this is " problematic " for the consumer.

In version two, the drug law would be abolished next year with the state
involved in the cultivation, sales and the distribution of Cannabis
products in Belgium. The state would become in this case the " Dealer ".

They will probably not want to go so far beyond the liberal Holland, so it
is considered very improbable that the Brussels government will decide for
version two. (state distribution)

Implementation would also draw enormous international complications and
(be) seen as violating international treaties fighting the drug trade,
which were also signed by Belgium.

Drug Policy reformers are counting therefore on the fact that
(international covenants) make it necessary for Belgium to follow the
Netherlands example and follow "tolerant" private hashish sales and
purchases. (MarijuanaNews note: In fact, the Belgians and others are
examining the need to amend these treaties.)

Date: Fri, 08 Dec 2000 17:50:07 -0800
From: "D. Paul Stanford" <stanford@crrh.org>