Newsbrief: Belgium to Legalize Marijuana Possession, Use 2/28/03

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In late January, the Belgian government moved to legalize the personal use and possession of marijuana and earlier this month, the Belgian parliament gave preliminary approval to the move. In a 75-40 vote, parliament agreed that Belgians will be allowed to possess up to five grams of marijuana and grow one plant without criminal penalties.

Belgium will not follow the Dutch model and allow for the open sales of marijuana. Belgian authorities did, however, note that their citizens could travel to the Netherlands to procure the herb. Belgians who want to obtain marijuana could "grow it for yourself or buy it in the Netherlands," said Consumer Affairs and Health Ministry spokesman Paul Geerts.

The move comes nearly two years after the Belgian parliament formally called on prosecutors and judges to "no longer interfere in the lives of people who use cannabis on a personal basis and who do not create harm or do not show dependence."

Marijuana trafficking, public use of marijuana, and use in the presence of a minor will continue to be prosecuted. "This is a policy that is being followed in many of the countries in the European Union," said Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt. "We are not penalizing individual users of cannabis, but we are concentrating on production, distribution or problematic use."

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