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Brussels’ mayor again calls for decriminalisation of marijuana
Brussels city mayor, Philippe Close (PS), reiterated his goal of decriminalising marijuana and called for a national debate on the topic, arguing that an eventual legalisation of cannabis would significantly alleviate violence linked to drug trafficking.
In an interview with the French-language newspaper Le Soir, Close explained that the 22 shootings to have taken place in the Brussels Region since the start of the year were mostly linked to drug trafficking.
“I have no doubt that after the publication of this interview, I will be accused by some of being a great promoter of drugs, or being laissez-faire. But I am addressing societal problems,” Close said.
“Let's have a calm debate. I am convinced that by taking cannabis out of the criminal field, we can focus on addressing the trafficking of hard drugs.”
More than a quarter of EU citizens have used marijuana at least once
An estimated 22.6% of the Belgian population has used cannabis at least once in their lives, according to the latest study in 2018, including 17% of 15-16 year olds. It is by far the most consumed illegal drug, with more than 27% of the EU population on average having used marijuana at least once in their lifetime.
Close pointed out some of the ways in which Brussels is already fighting against drug trafficking, including cooperation with Antwerp police and federal police.
“But believing that we are going to solve a problem – drug addiction – only through police repression, doesn't work. We have to get away from this hypocrisy,” Close said.
He called for a national drug plan that would facilitate coordination between actors at all levels, from cities and municipalities to communities and regions, along with the federal government. Close emphasised that the goal wasn’t promotion of marijuana, but rather management of its use.
Decriminalisation would be a first step towards eventual legalisation, Close said, pointing to countries such as Germany and Luxembourg as examples of places where the debate has already begun.
“If so many neighbouring countries have had the courage to discuss this, Belgium must have the same courage,” Close said.
Photo: Philippe Close Facebook page