"In Belgium, the legislative reform concerning the use of drugs and their possession for use took effect in June 2003 following the adoption of four new texts (47). The underlying principle of this legislative reform is that the application of the criminal law as a response to illegal drug use should now constitute only a last resort. Cannabis use (possession of a quantity of cannabis that can be used on a single occasion or at most within 24 hours – i.e. 3 grams) will thus involve a police registration. The law provides that users shall be fined €75 to €125 for a first offence, or €130 to €250 for a repeat offence within a year of the first conviction. They may be sentenced to eight days’ to one month’s imprisonment and a fine of €250 to €500 in the event of a further offence in the same year. In the case of ‘public nuisance’ or ‘problem use’ (48), a standard record (of the place, date and time of the relevant facts, type of substance and form of use) is drawn up and the substance is confiscated. For public nuisance stricter measures may also be imposed, such as three months’ to one year’s imprisonment and a fine of €5 000 to €500 000, or only one of these penalties. The law confirms that the possession and cultivation of cannabis remain offences, and provides for increased penalties for illicit production or trafficking. The law is based on the principle of deterrence from all drug use, including recreational use by adults. It is expressly stated that use by adults in the presence of minors will be treated more severely, with custodial penalties."


European Monitoring Center on Drugs and Drug Addiction, "Illicit drug use in the EU: legislative approaches" Lisbon, Portugal: (EMCDDA, 2005), p. 15.