Belgium Country Drug Report 2019

Drug markets

In Belgium, the production of cannabis, synthetic stimulant drugs and drug precursors is frequently reported. Cannabis cultivation sites and synthetic drug laboratories are often concentrated near Belgium’s border with the Netherlands, and synthetic drug production is mostly connected to Dutch organised crime groups, with different stages of the production process separated between the two countries.

The number of dismantled cannabis cultivation sites remained stable in 2017, although an increase in large-scale plantations (500-999 plants) was observed in comparison with previous years. Most herbal cannabis consumed in Belgium is grown locally or imported from Spain, the Netherlands and some African countries. Belgium is also a transit country for cannabis destined for markets in other EU countries. Cannabis resin mostly comes from Morocco and is trafficked mainly by road via Spain and France.

The port of Antwerp has emerged in recent years as a significant international drug trafficking hub, primarily for cocaine, while the airports of Brussels and Liège have also become significant. The most common points of origin for cocaine arriving in Belgium are Colombia and Brazil, with much of the cocaine that arrives being destined for the Netherlands or onward transportation. In 2017, record seizures were made for cocaine (the highest in Europe), MDMA/ecstasy tablets and also methamphetamine. Belgium is also a notable transit zone for new psychoactive substances coming from China, although the processing of synthetic cannabinoid products has been documented in Belgium. The number of heroin seizures and quantity seized has declined in the last 5 years.

Current law enforcement priorities in Belgium aim to ensure public safety and order through enhanced interagency cooperation, with a focus on consistent enforcement of criminal justice measures in the field of drugs. While particular emphasis has been placed on the port of Antwerp in recent years, the police mainly focus their activities on the large-scale production of illicit substances.

Data on the retail price and purity of the main illicit substances seized are shown in the ‘Key statistics’ section.

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Methodological note: Analysis of trends is based only on those countries providing sufficient data to describe changes over the period specified. The reader should also be aware that monitoring patterns and trends in a hidden and stigmatised behaviour like drug use is both practically and methodologically challenging. For this reason, multiple sources of data are used for the purposes of analysis in this report. Caution is therefore required in interpretation, in particular when countries are compared on any single measure. Detailed information on methodology and caveats and comments on the limitations in the information set available can be found in the EMCDDA Statistical Bulletin.