New rules on cannabisuse enter into force
1 February 2005
BRUSSELS – New guidelines came into force on Tuesday stating when users of cannabis in Belgium should be prosecuted.
A law on the soft drug was passed in May 2003, making it clear that not everyone found in possession of cannabis should be taken to court.
However, in October 2004, the Court of Arbitration, which reviews new legislation in Belgium, branded the law “unconstitutional” because of the vagueness of some of its wording.
For instance, the law said people should be prosecuted if they were guilty of a “problematic use” of the drug.
The Court ruled that that description was unclear.
As a result, public prosecutors decided they could not apply that part of the law, leaving the country in legal limbo over the drug.
But on Tuesday, the Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx and the Public Prosecutors Office issued a joint directive designed to clarify the situation.
If anyone is found with less than 3 grammes of cannabis or with a plant being kept to produce dope for personal use, they should receive the lowest form of punishment – a verbal warning.
The police will store the warning on computer and send all warnings issued to the magistrates’ court on a monthly basis.
The police will have no right to confiscate the drug from users if it does not exceed 3 grammes.
A person will only be dealt with more severely if he or she is using cannabis in a school or youth centre or nearby, or in a public place, or a prison.
The federal Justice and Health departments are still drafting the text which will replace the May 2003 law.
The first proposals are expected to be considered by the cabinet in March.
In the meantime, public prosecutors will follow Tuesday’s directive, with each prosecutor issuing legal teams with any additional guidance necessary according to local needs.
[Copyright Expatica 2005]
Subject: Belgian news