Belgium in Brief: Will we learn from our neighbours and decriminalise cannabis?

Belgium in Brief: Will we learn from our neighbours and decriminalise cannabis?
Credit: Belga

Belgium has a strong tradition of looking to its neighbours when faced with tricky decisions. Adjacent nations are often allowed to test the water on policies that might provoke some resentment or deviate from established norms.

Such has been the case with issues from labour reforms to covid restrictions. Yesterday, the same line of reasoning was evoked by Belgium's Economy and Employment Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne in the context of cannabis, citing the successes seen in the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany after laws on the drug's use and sale were relaxed.

With no concessions to archaic attitudes towards the soft drug, Dermagne's rhetoric was blunt (and pun-free) as he made a case for pragmatism. "Are Germany, the Netherlands and Luxembourg run by far-left governments full of idiots?" he asked, adding that the 101-year-old drug law still operating in Belgium is a pain to police and fills the country's notoriously overcrowded prisons with low-level offenders.

Far better surely to relieve the system of law and order of this "socially accepted" substance and direct energy to dealing with the major issues? Indeed, Dermagne highlighted the financial gains this could net the State – €660 million according to university estimations. At the same time, Belgium could play a far more effective role in regulating use and promoting safe consumption: "It would allow us to better guide users, prohibit sales to minors, and take over an important source of income from the criminal environment."

Then again, the call for a rational and moderate approach to drug control has been made umpteen times and inevitably bangs into stalwart opposition from scaremongers who insist that legalising cannabis is the first step towards heavy narcotics dependency – a claim uncorroborated by relevant scientific findings.

Reactionaries in Belgium's political midst make a virtue of severity, some willing to prove their worthiness in the drug war with quarterly blood tests whilst others preach a hardline stance that makes little distinction between substances. But how long can dogged intransigence hold out against modern policies that bear fruit just over Belgium's borders?

Let @Orlando_tbt know.

Belgium in Brief is a free daily roundup of the top stories to get you through your coffee break conversations. To receive it straight to your inbox every day, sign up below:

1. Tackling Belgium’s drug problem: Legalising cannabis is ‘common sense,’ says Economy Minister

A solution to the drug and security problem in Belgium's bigger cities, such as Brussels and Antwerp, could be legalising the sale and use of cannabis, according to Federal Economy and Employment Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne. Read more.

2. Debt protection and centralised tests: What changes in Belgium on 1 September?

Friday 1 September marks the start of a new month. As always in Belgium, this goes hand-in-hand with several changes brought about by new laws coming into force, both at the regional and national levels. Read more.

3. What to do in Brussels this weekend: 1 - 3 September

From Latin festivities to classical music concerts and a beer festival in Brussels' Grand Place, this weekend offers something for everyone. Read more.

4. Brussels: Heavy rain closes tunnels and public transport

Two tunnels were closed on Friday morning due to flooding as a result of heavy rains above Brussels. Tram traffic has also been affected, Brussels Mobility and the Brussels Fire brigade reported. Read more.

5. 'Not a fair deal': Dividends rose twice as fast as wages in Belgium last year

"We need to stop hitting the victims of inflation and finally tackle its root cause by ensuring every country has an effective windfall tax on excess profits." Read more.

6. Healthy mouth, healthy body: Improved reimbursement for dental care

A number of changes to improve how dental procedures is reimbursed will enter into force in September in order to reverse the trend of people not going to the dentist because they can't afford care. Read more.

7. Hidden Belgium: Labiomista

It used to be a coal mine. Then it became a zoo. And now it is an experimental art project called Labiomista. Read more.

Copyright © 2024 The Brussels Times. All Rights Reserved.