[Courtesy of Draw Up Your Plant]
On 25 January 2005, a common guideline was established by the Belgian Minister of Justice and the chief prosecutors in relation with offences against the law on cannabis consumption. Among others, this guideline* determines the following:
“The possession, by an adult person, of a quantity of cannabis that does not exceed 3 grammes or 1 cannabisplant, meant for personal consumption, with no aggravating circumstances or disturbance of public order, will only lead to the simple registration by the police “
“The offences that are registered in the framework of this guideline, will not lead to the confiscation of the drugs. These may remain in the possession of the involved person.“
On Friday 9 February 2007, at 9 hs, the Chamber of Accusation of the Court of Appeal of the city of Antwerpen will consider the legitimacy of the use of special investigation methods that have been used by the police in the investigation of the association Trekt Uw Plant vzw ("Draw Up Your Plant").
These methods, like observation of houses and persons, have been used due to the fact that the prosecutor suspects 'Draw Up Your Plant' of establishing an illegal cannabis plantation. This plantation, existing of one motherplant and 5 cuttings, was presented publically on 12 December 2006 in the Botanical Garden of Antwerpen, by 6 members of the association, among who Stijn Bex, Member of the Belgian Parliament.
The presentation had been announced publically. Permission had been asked and obtained from both the Lord mayor as well as the Public Order section of the police of the city of Antwerpen. No disturbance of public order nor any other aggravating circumstances took place.
According to the guideline of January 2005, the police should have done nothing more than register the facts; no legal sanctions, not even a confiscation should have followed. In the guideline, nothing is mentioned about the question if people may put their cannabis plants together.
However, the Antwerp prosecutor is determined to denounce the association and 5 of its members (the sixth member, Stijn Bex, enjoys parliamentary inmunity) because of the "cultivation of drugs'. If the Chamber of Accusation approves the investigation methods used by the police, the court case against 'Draw Up Your Plant' will probably take place on 28 March.
With this action, the Antwerp prosecutor ignores the ministerial guideline of January 2005. What's more, it seems as if the prosecutor would like to bury the entire guideline, and again make it possible to prosecute even the smallest quantity of cannabis.
The association Trekt Uw Plant (Draw Up Your Plant) has been founded in September 2006 in Antwerpen, and registered accordingly at the local Chamber of Commerce. The objective of the association is to allow each of its adult members to grow 1 cannabisplant in a common plantation, in a closed circuit, without any kind of trade taking place. The association wants to work in all transparency, in collaboration with the authorities.
On 27 July 2006 the seed of the first motherplant of the association is planted in a public event, in presence of media and police. On 12 December 2006, the first 6 members of the association each take a cutting of this motherplant. The six plants are then transported to the definitive location of the plantation, the address and the key of which are being delivered to the Antwerp Lord Mayor Patrick Janssens, so that the city services like police, fire brigade and others can execute the necessary controls in a relaxed atmosphere.
During this transport, the police intervenes. Four people are arrested. They are submitted to hourlong interrogations, their private houses are searched. The cannabis plants, the mobile telephones and personal agendas of the detained are confiscated, as well as the computer and financial administration of the association ENCOD (with whom Draw Up Your Plant shares office space). These goods are returned one week later, when it appears that the computer has not survived the treatment by the Antwerp police: the hard disk is completely useless.
At that moment, so it appears now, the prosecutor office has been following the activities of the association for several weeks. Hundreds, possible thousands of police working hours have been used to spy on the association, in spite of the fact that it has been functioning in all openness.
What is the prosecutor up to?
The police investigations have not led to any new elements. However, the prosecutor office, represented by substitute-prosecutor Olivier Lins, is determined to carry out the case against Draw Up Your Plant, and now requests the Chamber of Accusation to approve the applied methods of investigation. According to us, this leads to only one conclusion: the Antwerp prosecutor wants to get rid of the ministerial guideline, and return to the situation before the year 2003.
After years of discussions inside and outside the Belgian parliament, the drugs legislation in this country was modified in May 2003. This modification established that the possession of a quantity of cannabis for personal use by adults would no longer be prosecuted. On 20 October 2004, the Court of Arbitrage decided to abolish this modification, because of its vague formulation. Then, on 25 January 2005, a new common guideline was declared by the Belgian Minister of Justice and the chief prosecutors of all Belgian legal districts. The intention of this guideline remained the same: possession of cannabis is illegal, but if there are no aggravating circumstances, no prosecution will take place.
With these modifications, Belgium has in fact installed a tolerant policy concerning cannabis, as has been the case in most European countries and some states of the US for years. This policy aims to establish a distinction between dealers and consumers, as well as between cannabis and other, more riskful drugs. In this way, authorities wish to shift the emphasis in their drugs policy from the legal aspect towards the public health aspect.
Substitute-prosecutor Olivier Lins has an own opinion on this tendency. In a speech during a seminar at the Antwerp University on 24 November 2005 Lins said the following:
“In relation to cannabis use, there exists big confusion now. This confusion has been created by the authorities, although there was absolutely no need to do so. What matters is consequence in policy and clarity in communication: either we legalise cannabis or we do not, that would create clarity at least. The current situation, a kind of tolerant policy, is not really clear. One can question the need to install a special regulation for the possession of a quantity for personal use by adults. I don't think this need exists.”
A tolerant policy is the only way in which authorities can get round the current prohibition of cannabis. This prohibition is internationally agreed: cannabis is mentioned on a list that has been established during the make up of the Single Convention on Drugs in 1961 by the United Nations. Although there have been many calls from experts in many countries to submit this prohibition and its consequences to a thorough review, authorities continue to ignore the issue. Above all the US administration is an arduous partidarian of the continuation of this policy.
What is this really all about?
Draw Up Your Plant is an effort of involved and concerned citizens to establish a definitive and clear regulation on the cultivation of cannabis in Belgium. Due to the current illegal status of cannabis, no control whatsoever is possible on the production, trade and use of this substance, that is used regularly by approx. half a million people in Belgium. Criminality, public nuisance, coffeeshop tourism to the Netherlands, serious risks for public health by adulterated cannabis and free access by minors are among the direct consequences of this situation. In the model of Draw Up Your Plant, these problems can be avoided or reduced.
The court case against Draw Up Your Plant will become the case against the tolerance with regards to cannabis possession which exists in Belgium since 2003. It seems as if the Antwerp prosecutor wants to do everything to re-establish an absolute ban on cannabis. Thus, legal authorities would again get hold of the agenda in the way cannabis is treated, in stead of public health. The clock would be turned backwards for several years.
TREKT UW PLANT (vzw)
Lange Lozanastraat 14
Tel. 03 237 7436 - GSM: 0479 982271 / 0495 122 644 E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com www.hardcoreharmreducer.be