Courtcase at Appeal Court Antwerpen
Prosecution’s Office vs Mambo Social Club
19 november 2015
In December 2014, Mambo Social Club was declared guilty without punishment by the local court of Hasselt, Belgium. One year later, the Court of Appeal in Antwerpen will have to respond to the question if, after Trekt Uw Plant in 2008 and 2010, the second Belgian Cannabis Social Club can be acquitted.
It was a very interesting afternoon on the court. Two hours of top entertainment for the thirty people who had come to support Mambo and its members. There were no supporters of the Prosecutor’s Office present.
In his plea, the Advocate General argued especially against acquittal, not in favour of a conviction.
Against the argument of the defense (the infringement of the principle of legality, i.e. the fact that the law on possession and cultivation of cannabis for personal use is not clear and therefore the suspect should be acquitted) he argued that laws are made in Parliament and not in the courtroom. As expected, he referred to the amount cannabis seized at Mambo (1.2 kilos on its way to 60 members) as proof of the fact that here, not the same conclusion could follow as in the case of Trekt uw Plant (acquitted for similar offenses in 2008 and 2010 ), as in that case there were only some cuttings or seeds.
Lawyer Tom Goossens pointed out on behalf of the defense that the Court of Appeal has two options: either stay ‘deaf and blind’ for reality and apply the law, or follow the intention of the legislator and give the lowest prosecution priority to possession and cultivation of cannabis for personal use. There are enough examples of the changing trend in attitudes towards cannabis: organizations of social workers ask for regulation, academic experts such as Brice de Ruyver and Tom Corte point at Cannabis Social Clubs as a possible “third way” between Prohibition and Legalization, and governments in North and South America have already proceeded to legalize cannabis.
The Court of Appeal, consisting of two female and one male judge (only the latter spoke) did not leave any indicator on what went on in her mind. On one hand, the judge asked a few times about the application of the rules within the association, which showed that he was open to the idea that, if properly organized, a non-profit organisation provides an adequate structure for the collective cultivation of cannabis by adult citizens. Other times he insisted on that it is not the intention that judges will decide whether cannabis is legal in Belgium.
The sentence is scheduled on February 4, 2016.
There are basically two possibilities: either Mambo is acquitted or declared guilty without punishment. In any case, it will depend on what is written in the sentence to what extent and under what conditions Mambo Social Club can continue. In other words, to what extent the ministerial guideline of 2005 remains intact, and what restrictions may be imposed on a CSC in Belgium.