Belgium has an important position in the production of cannabis and synthetic drugs (mostly MDMA, amphetamines) and, recently, in the distribution of NPS, with strong connections to drug production in the neighbouring Netherlands. Cannabis-growing operations and clandestine laboratories are most often concentrated in the border region, sometimes with common production chains.
Cannabis remains the most frequently seized illicit substance in Belgium. In recent years, there has been an increase in the amount of cannabis seized from micro- and mini-plantations in the country, which has been attributed to higher restrictions on cannabis sales in the Netherlands and might indicate the expansion of the non-commercial segment of the domestic cannabis market. Belgium also remains a transit country for herbal cannabis trafficking from the African countries, intended predominantly for markets in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and other EU countries. Cannabis resin, mostly of Moroccan origin, is trafficked into the country mainly by road, and seizures have not indicated a particular trend over time. However, in 2015, an exceptionally large seizure of 6 tonnes of cannabis resin entering Belgium from France was reported
With regards to the production of synthetic drugs, an increase in the number of dismantled drug laboratories has been noted in recent years, some of which were using novel precursors. The local production of these substances is deemed to satisfy primarily the domestic market, while the United Kingdom and some Scandinavian countries remain popular export destinations for these substances.
For MDMA, slight increases in the number of seizures and the quantities seized have been reported in recent years, indicating that there is further recovery in the MDMA market. At the same time, seizures of amphetamines do not present clear time trends and seizures of methamphetamine remain at marginal levels.
The port of Antwerp is one of the largest container ports in the world and is significant in international drug trafficking, primarily for cocaine, as are the airports of Brussels and Liège. Cocaine is the second most frequently seized illicit substance, but the quantities seized show large annual fluctuations. It is smuggled into Belgium predominantly by air or sea from South and Central America, and also, in recent years, by express mail companies. Most of the cocaine arriving in Belgium is destined for the Netherlands or other EU countries.
Belgium is also a transit zone for NPS, which frequently originate in China and are destined for neighbouring countries or other EU countries, although limited local synthetic cannabinoid blending has been reported.
Heroin seized in Belgium often originates in Turkey, but African countries, India and Iran are also mentioned. The number of heroin seizures has declined in the last five years.
The retail price and purity of the main illicit substances are shown below.
Drug seizures in Belgium: trends in number of seizures (left) and quantities seized (right)
NBYear of data 2015.
Price and potency/purity ranges of illicit drugs reported in Belgium
NBPrice and potency/purity ranges: EU and national mean values: minimum and maximum.
Year of data 2015.