The use of controlled substances is not mentioned as an offence in Belgian drug laws; however, a user may be punished on the basis of prior possession. In 2003, personal possession of cannabis was differentiated from the possession of other controlled substances, whereby the public prosecutor did not have to prosecute if there was no evidence of problematic drug use or of public nuisance. After the Constitutional Court found that these terms were insufficiently defined, a new directive, issued in February 2005, called for full prosecution for possession for cases in which the ‘user amount’ (3 g or one plant) was exceeded, public order was disturbed or aggravating circumstances were identified. This includes possession of cannabis in or near places where schoolchildren might gather and also ‘blatant’ possession in a public place or building. Such cases are punishable by three months to one year in prison and/or a fine of EUR 6 000 to EUR 600 000. In the absence of aggravating circumstances, possession of cannabis for personal use is punishable by a fine of EUR 90 to EUR 150, based on a simplified police report. The fine increases for any offence committed within one year of a conviction. (Note that all fine amounts shown here have already been adjusted by the official inflation figure, i.e. multiplied by a factor of 6.)
For drugs other than cannabis, Belgian law punishes possession, production, import, export or sale without aggravating circumstances with three months’ to five years’ imprisonment and an additional fine of EUR 6 000 to EUR 600 000. The term of imprisonment may be increased to 15 or even 20 years (with an optional fine) in various specified aggravating circumstances.
Until recently, the control of new psychoactive substances (NPS) was achieved by amending the list of controlled substances. In 2014, the law was adapted to allow generic group definitions of controlled substances to be listed. Following the Royal Decree signed by the Minister of Health in June 2015, the prescription of medicines containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been allowed in Belgium, and one formulation is currently registered for legal use and sale.
Legal penalties: the possibility of incarceration for possession of drugs for personal use (minor offence)
NBYear of data 2015.
Drug law offence (DLO) data are the foundation for monitoring drug-related crime and are also a measure of law enforcement activity and drug market dynamics; they may be used to inform policies on implementation of drug laws and improve strategies.
Data from the federal police indicate that most DLOs in Belgium are related to possession. Cannabis is the drug most commonly involved in DLOs, with some increase in the number of cannabis-related offences recorded since 2012. The number of DLOs linked to MDMA/ecstasy is also increasing. In the meantime, a drop in the number of heroin-related offences has been observed in recent years and may be attributed to the changing priorities of the National Security Plan 2012-15, namely that heroin is no longer a priority.
Reported drug law offences and offenders in Belgium
NBYear of data 2015.