Characteristics of the cannabis market in Belgium

Tom Decorte
Published in: Drugs in Society: European Perspectives
Radcliffe Publishing: 2007

publicationThe number of cannabis plantations uncovered by the Belgian judiciary has been rising steadily, and the relocation of cannabis production to the Low Countries (i.e. Belgium and the Netherlands) has often been associated with a growing professionalisation of its cultivation and the involvement of organised crime, and with a more noxious and hazardous product compared with cannabis imported from elsewhere (due to a higher concentration of the most psychoactive chemical in cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, and thus a stronger potency, and to the presence of remnants of pesticides and other toxic chemicals).

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After briefly considering the patterns of cannabis use in Belgium and the current policy in relation to the drug, this chapter describes some characteristics of cannabis supply and attempts to unravel its complex relationship with current government policy. In order to understand some of the changes that the Belgian cannabis market has undergone in recent years, important features and developments in the Dutch cannabis market must also be considered. Belgium and the Netherlands not only share a border which is easily crossed in the context of the European Union, but they are also historically connected.

In the twelfth century, towns grew up in the region of de Nederlanden - low-lying land around the deltas of the Rhine, Scheldt and Meuse (Maas) rivers. Today, the Low Countries share many similarities. For example, the population of northern Belgium, the Flemish, speak the same language as the Dutch. Moreover, as there are multiple forms of legal cooperation at a political, economic and cultural level, it must be assumed that there are also multiple forms of illegal cross-border cooperation and influences.