General culture

Cannabis and legality: are we there yet?

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At a time when parliamentary elections have redefined Belgium's political landscape, it's vital to look at innovative ideas for moving legislation forward, particularly where cannabis is concerned.

Current state of the debate

The legalization of cannabis is a long-standing and complex debate in Belgium. An October 2023 poll shows that 35% of Belgians support legalization. However, there is a notable divide between the French-speaking parties, who are mostly open to the idea, and the parties in the north of the country, who are more reticent.

Senate report on drugs

In April 2024, the Senate published a report evaluating drug policies, particularly cannabis, highlighting major problems such as:

Prison population:

50% of inmates are incarcerated for drug-related offenses.

Cannabis offences:

70% of drug-related offences involve cannabis.

Cost of repression:

1 billion euros a year, 90% of which for cannabis trafficking.

Associated risks, Legalities and political opinions

The WHO recognizes the therapeutic effects of CBD and does not attribute any major risks to it.

However, when mixed with tobacco and smoked, the risks associated with smoking remain.

Cannabis remains illegal in Belgium, but a European directive allows the cultivation and sale of industrial hemp with less than 0.2% THC.

Since 2019, smoking cannabis with less than 0.2% THC is considered "other smoking tobacco" and subject to the same legislation.

However, without laboratory analysis, it is difficult to distinguish this cannabis from illegal cannabis, which can lead to legal complications.

The question "Should cannabis be legalized in Belgium?", launched in May 2024, is supported by the majority of Belgian political parties (Défi, Ecolo, PS, Les Engagés, PTB), who are proposing an approach based on public health rather than repression.

they advocate a public health policy to accompany decriminalization.

However, the liberal parties (MR) are opposed to the idea, questioning why cannabis should be favored over other drugs, and feel that such a signal to the public is inappropriate.

Sources : Elections 2024 - Cannabis, abortion, wearing the veil: what are the parties proposing on major social issues?, Cannabis: allowed or forbidden?

Current problems

The current legal framework is obsolete and inefficient. The report calls for a reform of the 1921 law to better reflect contemporary realities and improve regulation and the use of recent data.

International models

Belgium could draw inspiration from various foreign models:

Uruguay:

Legalization under strict state control.

United States:

Regulation by private professional licenses.

Canada:

Intermediate approach between state and private control.

Germany:

Legalization of recreational cannabis since April 2024.

Reasons to Reform

Sanitary:

Legalization would make it possible to control quality and cannabinoid content, thereby reducing health risks.

Safe:

Reduce the power of criminal networks and improve public safety.

Judicial:

Alleviate the overloading of prisons and judicial services, currently exacerbated by 30,000 fines for cannabis possession every year.

Economic stakes

The Friday Group has estimated that legalization could generate between 20 and 140 million euros in annual revenue for the state. These funds could be reinvested in prevention and the fight against criminal networks.

sources : https://www.lecho.be/opinions/general/le-temps-est-venu-de-legaliser-le-cannabis/10551133.html