Trekt Uw Plant (Draw Up Your Plant) counts on being acquitted in cannabis trial on 25 April 2007
The end of hypocrite cannabis policy in Belgium (possession and use are allowed for adults, production and distribution is prohibited) is coming nearer. On Wednesday 28 March at 9 am in Antwerpen (Belgium), a court case started against the association Trekt Uw Plant and 5 of its members.
On 12 December 2006 the police confiscated the cannabis plantation that was presented to the press by Trekt Uw Plant earlier that day. The association and its members developed the plantation (consisting of 6 plants for 6 members) following the ministerial guideline that was signed on 25 January 2005 by Belgian Minister of Justice Laurette Onckelinkx and the 5 main District Attorneys (“Procureurs-generaal”) in Belgium. According to this guideline the possession by an adult of max. 3 grams of cannabis or one cannabis plant will no longer lead to legal persecution. For the presentation of the plantation, permission had been obtained from the Antwerp local authorities, after a positive advise by the Antwerp police force, section public order.
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 requests absolution.
The verdict will take place on 25 april. If we will be condemned we will go into appeal immediately. In the mean time, we prepare other actions to ensure the fight will continue. The guideline should not be abolished, on the contrary, it should be extended to a definitive legal regulation on the production and distribution of cannabis. Thus, an end can be made to the legal insecurity and criminalization of approx. half a million Belgian citizens who regulary consume cannabis.
Until now, most cannabis consumers are forced to supply themselves on the black market, where they run the risk of being exposed to a criminal environment. Because of the lack of control on production and distribution, consumers are in danger of consuming cannabis that is adulterated with products like glass and paint, as was recently warned for by the Belgian Scientific Institute on Health (WIV). This can cause serious but perfectly avoidable damage to public health.
The prohibition of cannabis is usually justified with the need to protect young people. But it is precisely young people who are particularly exposed to the risks of an illegal market. In tobacco shops, young people have to prove that they are over 16 years of age. Most dealers do not have a problem with this. An illegal market has no (age)limits.
Cannabis prohibition is not protecting consumers, nor their environment. It is attracting criminality and makes control impossible. By insisting on a zero tolerance approach, the Antwerp DA shows that he does not care for the safety of citizens and society as a whole. Law enforcement becomes a goal in itself, without taking into account its impact on prevention, public health and the fight against crime.
The 2005 ministerial guideline on cannabis is the result of years of parliamentary debates concerning the policy on cannabis in Belgium. The conclusion of this discussion was that the posession of cannabis for personal use should be depenalized. Trekt Uw Plant acted strictly according to the guideline. Any other verdict than “not guilty” will make criminals of the members of Trekt Uw Plant.
We are concerned and involved citizens, no criminals.
See a TV report on the courtcase on ATV Television
Stijn Goossens – Joep Oomen – Philippe De Craene
TREKT UW PLANT (vzw)
Lange Lozanastraat 14 2018 Antwerpen
Tel. 03 293 0886 / GSM: 0479 982271 / 0495 122 644