Trekt Uw Plant allows Belgian cannabis consumers to provide themselves with cannabis without any commercial trade taking place. Every member can grow his/her personal plant in our collective plantation, according to strict but simple rules and statutes.
On Thursday 27 July 2006, Trekt Uw Plant, an association of cannabis consumers based in Antwerp, Belgium, put the seed of the first mother plant that would provide the clones of the first legal collective cannabis plantation in Belgium.
Trekt Uw Plant bases itself on the Royal Decree of 2003 and the Ministerial Guideline of January 2005, signed by the Belgian Minister of Justice and all 5 General Prosectors. According to this guideline the possession of max. 3 grammes cannabis and/or 1 female cannabisplant by adults will not be prosecuted anymore, if there are no aggravating circumstances (presence of minors, public disorder etc.). It can be registered by police, but is not followed up by legal sanctions.
On Tuesday, 12 december 2006, the presentation of the plantation took place in the Botanical Garden of the city of Antwerpen, with the permission of local authorities, including the police. The definitive location of the plantation remained a secret for the public, though the association had informed the authorities so the necessary control could be implemented in a relaxed atmosphere.
Under massive presence of national and international media, 6 members of Trekt Uw Plant among whom Stijn Bex.
member of the federal parliament in Belgium for Spirit (a party that belongs to the government coalition), took each their clone of the motherplant.
During the transport of the plantation to its final location, without the presence of the media, the police intervened and arrested four members of the association.
The 6 cannabis plants were confiscated, and the four people were arrested. During 4 hours, they were interrogated on the accusation of being involved in the production of drugs. Their houses were searched, their mobile phones and personal agendas were confiscated.
Furthermore the computer, financial administration and other documents of the association were confiscated.
Both for the planting of the seed and the presentation of the plantation, permission had been requested and obtained from the Antwerp local authorities, after a positive advise by the Antwerp police force, section public order.
However, the Antwerp DA, “substituut-procureur” Olivier Lins, has decided to ignore the ministerial guideline. He considers “Trekt Uw Plant” to be a criminal organization that intends to use the ambiguity of the law for criminal purposes. In the past, Lins has stated that he is opposed the cannabis guideline and that he would like to see it abolished, in order to make an end to the reform policy toward cannabis which has been implemented by the Belgian federal government during the past years.
The prosecutor requested the following sanctions: dissolution of the association, ‘forced social labour ‘ of resp 60 and 80 hours for 2 of the 5 members of the association who had been convicted for drug related charges before (years ago), and no sanctions for the 3 other members.
Our lawyer, Tom Goossens, made a long and brilliant reply, countering the accusation on three points:
The Belgian legislation on cannabis possession is absolutely unclear. If we are condemned, then one can just as well tear the ministerial guideline into pieces.
The accusation of forming a criminal association is absurd. Our association does not contain any of the fundamental characteristics of a criminal organisation. It would be the same if a group of bank robbers would publish their plans in a press release before and ask (and obtain!) permission for them from the local police.
It is unsure what has to be understood with the term ‘cannabis’ in the Belgian legislation. If one follows the UN Convention of 1961 (what normally happens) there is just reference to the flowering buds of the plant, not to the seeds or leaves. When we were arrested, the plants were ten centimeters high and did not carry buds.
The defense requested absolution.
The verdict came on 25 April 2007. That day, the judge sentenced that Trekt Uw Plant is not a criminal organisation. The request of the prosecutor to suspend the association was therefore denied. This means explicitly that there were no aggravating circumstances in this case, which were invoked by prosecutor Lins to accuse us.
See the reaction of lawyer Tom Goossens
However, the judge has also sentenced that the cultivation of cannabis is always illegal, and that the ministerial guideline does not have to be followed. She concludes that complete accquittance is impossible: of the 5 accused members, 3 members do not receive any sanctions, and 2 members are given a fine of 15 (fifteen) euro each, as they have been accused before of drug related offences (possesion for personal use, in 1969 and 1991 resp). This sanction is minimal in comparison with the jail term of max. 5 years which we had been informally warned for by a representative of the Antwerp prosecuter office in October 2006.
The judge has sentenced that cultivating cannabis is punishable and no lack of clarity exists in the legislation. She refers to the contradictory communication by politicians and media as the cause for confusion amongst individual citizens concerning the status of this guideline and therefore of the cultivation of cannabis as a whole.
Trekt Uw Plant did not base itself on communications from politicians or media. We have strictly accomplished the regulation stated by the Royal Decree of 2003 and the subsequent Ministerial Guideline of 2005 that replaces the text on cannabis from the RD agter this text was eliminated by a sentence of the Arbitrary Court in 2004.
At each step, we have done everything to remain within the framework of the law. Every detail was considered extremely carefully. And besides, we asked and obtained permission for the establishment of the plantation from the local Antwerp authorities following positive recommendation of the Antwerp police.
This sentence ignores the political decision to stop persecuting possession and cultivation of cannabis for personal consumption. This decision has been taken after 8 years of political decisions and debate in society. This is a political sentence, which obliges political decision makers to take a stand.
See the message of gratefulness brought by the Antwerp drug gangs to the judge.
The good news is that Trekt Uw Plant is considered to be a legal association. Our initiative can now be repeated in the whole country. We are satisfied with the fact that our name has been cleared: But we do not agree with the interpretation of the legislation on cannabis cultivation. We will therefore go into appeal. The fact that we need to provoke this court case means that the legal status of cannabis cultivation for personal consumption is not clear enough. We call on the politicians to start working out a definitive regulation after the elections on 10 June.
TREKT UW PLANT continues. We are ready for a long term struggle to obtain our right. We call upon all people who agree with us to become a member or support us in other ways.
The case in appeal will be dealt with on June 12th, 2008.
Joep Oomen – Philippe De Craene
Lange Lozanastraat 14 2018 Antwerpen
Tel. 03 293 0886 GSM: 0494/80 73 50 / 0495 122 644
E-mail: Joep Oomen