3 november 2014
by Guy Tegenbos, Maxie Eckert, Jan Temmerman
The umbrella organisations that are working in the alcohol and drug treatment and prevention sector in the three regions of Belgium – Flanders (VAD), Brussels (Fedito Bruxelloise) and Wallonia (Fedito Wallonne) – declared on monday their support to a complete decriminalisation of cannabis. The new Minister of Public Health, Maggie De Block (Open VLD – liberal party) has said she is willing to consider if a new policy concerning cannabis would be adequate.
In a press release the umbrella organisations issue a warning against the use of cannabis. ‘Cannabis is not an innocent product.’ Smoking cannabis causes breathing problems and increases the risk of lung cancer. Who consumes lots of cannabis often can become addicted and long term cannabis use increases the risk of cognitive disturbances.
‘Prohibiting cannabis is not the best solution though’, the organisations said monday. ‘Prohibition maintains the illegal trade and the criminality. Besides the government has no way to control the product as long as it remains illegal. This control is necessary: with the new varieties and cultivation techniques that are used at illegal plantations currently, the psycho-active effects of cannabis are strengthened, which also increases the risks.’
VAD and Fedito argue therefore for a complete decriminalisation of cannabis consumption and possession of personal use quantities. On the other hand, the organisations ask for more funding to strengthen prevention and treatment. And demand more investigation in terms of regulation of production, import, quality control and sale of cannabis in Belgium.
‘Limited supply of cannabis is worth investigating’
In the newspaper De Standaard criminologists Brice De Ruyver and Cyrille Fijnaut declared recently that in a policy that prioritizes public health, it is possible to regulate a limited supply of cannabis. The new minister of Public Health, Maggie De Block (Open VLD), has welcomed the proposals of both criminologists but also calls for prudence.
‘They put the finger on the soft spot’, says De Block. ‘But we need to be careful. We are talking about addictive substances. It is worth investigating. We will talk about it with the ministers of Justice and Internal Affairs. Also with the regional governments, as they are responsible for prevention.’