Cannabis Social Clubs under attack in Belgium

Saturday 4th of May at 6.00 am some Flemish anti-prohibitionist activists were raided & arrested. Among them the president Mambo Social Club in the city of Hasselt, Michel Degens, and some members of Trekt Uw Plant, (Grow your Plant), founded in 2006 by the renown drug-activist Joep Oomen. They are all accused of money laundering for their activities of production and distribution to the 400 members of the Antwerp club from where similar initiatives have sprung-up all over Europe.
Trekt Uw Plant has opened a loophole in the black market, guaranteed 24 hours a day by the prohibitionist legislation, by using the royal decree that had legalized the personal possession of one hemp plant for each citizen of the kingdom of Belgium. The club has inspired also the inception of the first cannabis association in Uruguay, Tira la tu planta and similar associations throughout the country.
On this juridical base and considering the impractical solution of cultivating just one plant for personal use, the association has catered to a large number of small growers and consumers that have made this right eligible, and the freedom to cultivate was successfully fought in court and after several political and juridical struggles the first legal cannabis harvest had been distributed among membership on 10th April 2010.
By opening the first self-regulated club Belgium became the first European country where cannabis is legal under certain conditions. Similarly to Spain, where consumption and cultivation of cannabis in private premises is free, the statues of the Cannabis social clubs that follow Encod’s code of conduct, they exclude categorically commercial outward bound activities like sales and distribution of cannabis to non members and to minors or people that are not resident in the respective countries. This is the principle that discriminates quite clearly the CSC’s from commercial enterprises that are differently regulated like the dutch or the medical or recreational cannabis dispensaries in the USA.

With small but decisive steps and a substantial accountability that the Belgian justice seems to be questioning, the anti-prohibitionist Belgian movement has brought about a seminal contribution to the legal regulation of the Belgian cannabis market. The initiative has expressed for years a significant contribution for the full self-sufficiency of their members and example of extra market and extra-capitalist management that foresees as in all non profit organizations some forms of loans and reimbursements for the administration and growing staff.
The legal base is the ministerial 2005 guideline according that the possession of max cannabis grams and a female plant are not a crime anymore. In some cases police can file a “simplified registration” with no legal or administrative consequences. Cannabis cannot even be seized without the consent of the owner.
In the last years Trekt Uw Plant ha tested the consistency of this guide line in two or more occasions.
On the 12th of December 2006 and on the 3rd of May 2008. On both occasions the association presented to the public a collective cannabis grow In both cases the crops were seized and the members arrested and prosecuted. In both cases the association was found guilty by the judge.The first time for cannabis possession and the second for incitement to drug use. But in both cases the association appealed and finally was acquitted respectively on the 26th June 2008 and on the 25th February 2010.
Recently the President of Mambo Cannabis social club Michel Degens was stopped by a Belgian court and he is still appealing on that. Some few days before on the 2nd of May, Michel had presented the Belgian case at a conference at the European Parliament.

Notwithstanding the starts of fear of the prohibitionists in the justice and state apparatus that don’t like the extension of the right to farm, Trekt Uw W Plant has drawn throughout a decade the conclusion that its methodology is complying with the intentions of the Belgian legislators and the royal decree: by putting an end to the prosecution of possession and cultivation of cannabis for personal use, the accent has shifted from the justice intervention to an approach based on public health .That means that cultivate for personal use is a sound and safe alternative to the illegal market and to the drug tourism directed towards the Netherlands.An association like Trekt Uw Plant uses some ecological cultivation methods , with no adulterants in the products as it happens in the black market. Contrary to the illegal market, the association is not accessible to minors.

It’s since more than a decade that Trekt Uw Plant sends out a clear message to the estimated half million of cannabis users in Belgium and to the European consumers.
From this moment on, despite the whisks of the prohibitionists' tails, it is possible, by following some rules, organize a collective cannabis cultivation of cannabis for personal use through a closed loop system. By doing that Belgium has gone a step further than the Netherlands where the sale of small amounts of cannabis is tolerated but not their cultivation. But also potentially better than in Spain where the local Basque and Catalan authorities have introduced some local adjustments to allow the survival of the non commercial clubs without regulating the issue at the national level.

Since 2006 Trekt Uw plant had planted some seeds in the Antwerp Botanical Gardens and in December of the same year the seeds had turned into a huge Mother-plant that the leading members of the association had turned into seedlings to give to the first 6 members. At that time the police had seized everything and arrested 8 members On April 2007 the members were sentenced to a 154 euro fine but finally they were all acquitted by the Court of Appeal.
Later on on the 3rd and 5th May 2008 Trekt Uw Plant had planted cannabis seeds during the Million Marijuana March on Antwerp’s Friday Market.
Interestingly enough a small group of activists has reached some superiority as a spearhead in the global movement for the legal regulation that differently that the sole prohibition policies allowing major controls and safety both for consumers and society as a whole. Differently from what’s happening in the neighboring Netherlands where home-growing is still forbidden and the central government hinders the idea of a collective production proposed by some left wing and christian democratic mayors, that would benefit the municipalities, Belgium could bypass the criminal market and limit the harms for the entire population.
As a matter of fact a similar message is getting through in most of Europe starting by countries like Slovenia, Czech Republic, Portugal and Spain.
In the meanwhile the global cannabis community is looking forward to the Canadian law that would legalize cannabis. That is already under a heavy critics by the Canadian community for its evident flaws.It is a first step but with considerable incongruities. The future is unwritten but surely some hyper-regulative guidelines that are typical of ideological state apparatus will be continuing to clash with reality even in the first times of a rather green legalization process.

by Enrico Fletzer>