Newsbrief: Belgian Cannabis Clarification Now in Effect 2/4/05

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Belgium passed a law decriminalizing the personal possession of marijuana under most circumstances in January 2003, but parts of that law have been in limbo since October, when the Belgian Court of Arbitration, which reviews new legislation, declared it unconstitutional because of vagueness and ambiguity in the wording of the law.

For instance, while the law made clear that most people should not be arrested for simple marijuana possession, it said they could get busted if their use was "problematic." The court found that description unclear. As a consequence, Belgian prosecutors decided they could not apply that section of the law.

This week, the Ministry of Justice and the Public Prosecutor's Office moved to clarify the situation, the online news service Expatica reported. Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx and the prosecutor's office issued a joint directive specifying that anyone caught with less than three grams of the weed or growing one plant to supply himself should receive the lowest form of sanction, a verbal warning. Under the directive, police cannot confiscate the weed if it is less than three grams. The clarification went into effect immediately.

People can still be punished more severely if they are smoking pot near a school or youth center, in a public place, or in prison.

The Belgian law makes no provision for marijuana sales. At the time of the law's passage in 2003, Health Ministry spokesman Paul Geerts recommended that pot-hungry Belgians could "grow it for yourselves or buy it in the Netherlands." Now, would be growers can rest assured that they can grow at least one plant without fear of police reprisal.

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Issue #373 -- 2/4/05

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