Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. On 4 February, 2016, the second Cannabis Social Club of Belgium, Mambo Social Club, was acquitted by the Antwerp Court of Appeal of ’incitement to’ or ’facilitation of drug use’, but convicted of possession of cannabis. The judge did not want to go along with the argument of the defense that this cannabis was meant for the personal use of the members of the association, and therefore acquittal would be the only possible conclusion.
The Court of Appeal states that cannabis possession should only be considered as ’for personal use’ when it is found on the person who will use it. Possession for someone else’s use is always punishable, even if it is given away for free. If we extend this way of reasoning, the ministerial cannabis directive of 2005 (which decriminalises possession of 3 grams or one female cannabis plant by an adult) is only valid for people who have the opportunity and are able to grow a plant. All others must go to the illicit market.
In 2008 and 2010, Trekt Uw Plant was acquitted of exactly the same accusations: "incitement to drug use" and "possession of cannabis". Also in those cases, it was evident that the cannabis was meant for the members of the association, and not just for the person who had it in his possession. Therefore an ambiguous situation has arisen: apparently the Court of Appeal considers that one CSC is legal and the other one not, notwithstanding the fact that they operate in exactly the same way.
This verdict raises more questions than it answers. To clarify the situation, it is now vital that a final legal regulation of cannabis is agreed upon.
In the coming days Trekt Uw Plant and Mambo Social Club will send a proposal for such a regulation to the members of the Belgian parliament.
Below the comments of the Chairman of Mambo Social Club, Michel Degens:
The court’s decision today was not what we had hoped for.
We are acquitted of facilitating and inciting to drug use but we are convicted of the possession, production and sale of cannabis.
The court denies that the possession of the plants of the members corresponds to the possession for personal use. According to him, this concept should be applied very strictly: possession for personal use can only be condoned if it is about the person for whose use this plant is intended.
We are condemned to suspended sentences with a probation of three years.
We will now consider our legal options. We consider going to the Court of Cassation but we will consult a specialist and seek more advice.
With this verdict the judge places the ball in the court of the politicians. We have done everything in our power and within our means and hope that the message arrives at the politicians.
We continue to believe in the Cannabis Social Club model and we think the world is a better place with this model. It keeps people from criminal circles, it saves on costs for police and justice, it ensures that minors do not have access to cannabis and it is a good solution for many patients.
We believe that the model is a respectful way to give meaning to the right to self-determination within the framework of the Ministerial Directive of 2005.
It remains however ambiguous that the state through the Fund for Scientific Research earmarked 198.350 euros for a study on the Belgian Cannabis Social Clubs and on the other side is trying to eradicate the social clubs. In order to study the social clubs you indeed need social clubs. It is reminiscent of a snake biting its own tail.
We’ll keep you posted.