New provisions oscillate between tolerance and zero tolerance for cannabis

The Minister of Justice, Koen Geens, justified through legal requirements the federal government legislating upon cannabis possession.
This is contained within a royal decree dated September 6th on psychotropic drugs.

In 2004, the Court of Arbitration repealed the legal provisions of the law dated 2003. They partially decriminalised possession for personal use. Two royal decrees passed in the wake of this have since become largely obsolete. The government wished to clarify the position by restoring the spirit of the 2003 reform, which has been partially translated since into a directive by the College of Public Prosecutors. This grants the lowest level of priority in respect of prosecution for cannabis possession for personal use, where there are no aggravating circumstances.

The new royal decree “has no new legal interpretation.” This was indicated in the relevant parliamentary committee by the minister, Koen Geens.

He was being questioned by the PS deputy André Frédéric. Geens went on, “It is thus a question of restoring the spirit of the 2003 reform, using a text of superior quality and yet sufficiently precise that everyone knows what is or is not permitted.” Moreover, Mr Geens confirmed, “This will not cause any fundamental modification of policies in force as regards drugs. This has been taken up from 2015 in the form of the new directive.”

The federal government agreement anticipates a zero-tolerance policy regarding drugs. However the minister mentioned that this directive anticipates already acting “more severely” than the law requires, in the face of the observations on cannabis possession for personal use. This is due to the fact that “the illegal product will still be confiscated by the police if found at any time.”

The minister also mentioned the same directive states that, for personal use, “possessing a quantity of cannabis under 3 grams, or a single cannabis plant, is not a ground for a high-priority prosecution. Provided that there is no indication that it is being sold, or of any aggravating circumstances or the commission of a public order offence, the offence will be low-priority for prosecution. It will give rise to a simple police report being made.”

Dependant upon local requirements, this tolerance can however be lifted. This is because, the minister insisted, “…under the terms of the government agreement, Belgium is not tolerating illegal drugs.”

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