BRUSSELS - Soon, use of 'soft' drugs will no longer be illegal. To
this aim, the 1921 law will be adjusted and there will also be a royal
decree. This means more legal security for occasional users of
cannabis. But where they get their stuff, they will have to find out
for themselves.

The core cabinet has resolved the drugs issue yesterday with an
honorable compromise. Use of cannabis will not be removed from the
penal code, as the Greens and the PS wanted initially. The user gets
more legal security than is the case now, with the circular letter.

In the drugs law of 1921 a provision is written that allows a separate
approach to soft- and hard drugs, and to problematic and
non-problematic use. What this other approach exactly entails, will be
regulated with a royal decree and a circular letter.

Someone who smokes cannabis will at least no longer receive a booking.
Using cannabis is allowed, as long as there is no social nuisance or
problematic use. Driving under the influence is not allowed; and whomever
is seriously addicted will be guided into drug aid.

The government has not chosen to determine the amount of grams of
cannabis allowed. In this way, the discussion about 5 grams as in the
VLD-version versus 15 grams as in the Agalev-version was neatly avoided.

No problem, says Department of Health Minster Magda Aelvoet. The
police services have sufficient experience to know from how many grams
use of soft drugs becomes problematic. But, she admitted, there will
always be room for interpretation for police services. Problematic use
may mean something different in the city of Brussels than in
Betekom-village, just like nuisance means something else in both
municipalities.

About growth and sale the drugs compromise says nothing. Positions
were too far apart for that. Who wants to smoke a joint, will have to
grow themselves or make a trip to the Netherlands.

In the case of hard drugs there no longer is an abbreviated booking in
the case of use, a left-over from the original drugs proposal. There
will always be a booking. But the ways in which the office of the
prosecutor deals with the booking will be extended. In this, it will
always be the intention to keep drug users out of prison and guide
them to drug aid.

The drugs proposal gives a lot of attention to aid and prevention.
Half a billion franks will be spent additionally for it as well.

VU thinks the proposal is a half-hearted compromise

Senators Patrick Van Krunkelsven and Vincent Van Quickenborne (VU&ID)
think the government's compromise on use of cannabis is half-hearted.
It still contains unclarities. "Growing is not allowed, so where will
you get the stuff. Supply from the Netherlands is cumbersome and
illegal, since importation of cannabis remains an offense." Moreover,
the prosecutors continue to judge who is a problematic user. This
leaves room for interpretation, according to the VU&ID-senators, who
stick to their proposal: a maximum of 15 grams in your pocket, no
booking or seizure below that limit, and as much transferral to drug
aid as possible.

Newshawk: HaL (hal@legalizewiesbaden.de)
Pubdate: Fri, 19 Jan 2001
Source: De Standaard (B)
Copyright: De Standaard
Contact: standaard@vum.be
Website: http://www.standaard.be/
Author: Bart Dobbelaere
Translation: Harry Bego