12 december 2014
HASSELT, Belgium– Thursday 11 december the local court of Hasselt ruled in the case against Mambo Social Club. Two board members were acquitted, the president and one of the association’s growers were condemned without sanctions. Mambo Social Club can not agree with this verdict and will appeal. “For sure this is not the end of the story, we keep our faith in the legal apparatus and turn to the court of appeal just like our colleagues at Trekt Uw Plant had to do before us.”
This verdict is contradictory to the intentions of Belgian drug policy: to reduce cannabis related criminality, access to minors and problematic use. The court in Hasselt still does not understand that Mambo Social Club can be an objective ally in the struggle against those problems.
This verdict is contradictory to the political decision to stop prosecuting possession and cultivation for own use. That decision was taken in 2005 after 8 years of political discussions and public debate. Therefore, this is a political verdict. We call upon those with political responsibility to take measures to elaborate a definitive regulation that is clear to everybody.
The verdict is also a gift to the illegal drugs trade. It confirms the fact that consumers are obliged to turn to the illegal market in order to obtain cannabis. If this verdict will remain in appeal the members of Mambo Social Club, among who dozens of people who have been prescribed cannabis by their doctor, will be forced to provide themselves again at the illegal market. That illegal market does not take into account the need to avoid and prevent problems, such as use by minors, health risks and public nuisance. Mambo Social Club is doing all that, but this verdict makes that impossible.
This verdict does not relate at all to the (inter-)national tendency to stop criminalising cannabis consumers, but search for regulatory models that serve public health and safety. At this moment, 4 American states and Uruguay have completely legalised the cannabis market, and the expectation is for this trend to continue in the coming year. In Spain, Slovenia and the Netherlands the phenomenon of Cannabis Social Clubs has already been accepted by local authorities. And even in Antwerp, where the lord mayor fights a so-called ‘war on drugs’, the association Trekt Uw Plant operates already 5 years in the same way as Mambo Social Club, after having been acquitted twice in a row.
Finally this verdict is contradictory to the opinion of a large number of legal experts who believe that the current drugs law are not clear and do not accomplish the fundamental criteria of a state of law. This is puzzling but strengthens our faith that this verdict will not survive the test of time.
Of course we will appeal this verdict. We are not ready to accept that Hasselt should be an island where time stands still. We are ready to fight a long battle if needed in order to obtain our rights. We believe in the model of the social club and we are convinced that we can contribute to a better world.