Home Society Belgium will not legalize drugs, says prime minister
Belgium will not legalize drugs, says prime minister

Belgium will not legalize drugs, says prime minister

by host
Belgium will not legalize drugs, says prime minister

BRUSSELS — Belgium won’t back down in its war on drugs.

“People who think that casual drug use is just an individual thing, that it has no impact on society, they’re wrong,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said in response to a question from POLITICO on Wednesday. 

De Croo was taking questions from journalists after a meeting of the National Security Council, during which officials decided to beef up the country’s security services. Shootings between drug gangs have injured half a dozen people in Brussels since February, with one police officer killed in the southwestern city of Charleroi last week during a drug search.

“This is one of the reasons we have increased [penalties for drug use] … think about all the blood that is attached to it,” De Croo said, flanked by his ministers of the interior, justice and defense. 

The European Union has become the global capital of cocaine use in recent years, as record production in South America has matched with roaring demand across Europe. Belgium is a key gateway, with the port city of Antwerp registering as both the continent’s largest seizer and consumer of the narcotic.

This has led to a surge in criminal violence, as gangs compete for access to the port and retail spots in cities like Brussels. Authorities have mostly been left flat-footed, either pushing for technical adjustments to port security or advocating for harsher drug laws. 

De Croo has so far continued in that vein, doubling down on prohibition. During the press conference, he promised to increase the number of police and customs agents, and to better target users and dealers in marginalized neighborhoods of Brussels. 

“Using drugs is a crime,” he said.

Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden also pointed to the negative health and environmental effects of consuming cocaine, including in source countries.

“I’ve been in Bolivia three, four weeks ago. And we have blown up a drug lab that was found by the Bolivian police,” she told POLITICO. “People should realize that if you’re using drugs, if you’re pleading for the legalization of drugs, that it will … contribute to the deforestation of the Amazon.”

However, some experts argue that the violence surrounding the drug trade stems from its illegality, with governments effectively placing a high-demand, zero-regulation market in criminal hands.

A tiered licensing system could weaken organized crime, reduce health problems from tainted and overly powerful substances, and raise millions in taxes for social and addiction programs, these critics say.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro called for a shift towards decriminalization and better regulation in March, saying the war on drugs had “failed.”

“The health of our societies is at stake. The risk posed by the use and abuse of illicit drugs, both natural and synthetic drugs, can only be mitigated by adopting a harm reduction policy,” he told a United Nations Commission.

Source link