Belgium legalized smokable CBD flowers and improved its medical hashish recreation


The entry into the new medical cannabis and CBD industry is trending worldwide. Countries like Belgium, which started slowly, are picking up speed as these markets expand very quickly and open up new opportunities for in-house production and global export.

When legalizing cannabis for medical purposes first became a thing, the idea was clearer and more direct than it is today; It meant legalizing cannabis for residents of a country with specific medical problems. And it still takes a lot of time, but it doesn't have to.

When you look at most of the countries that have legalized medical programs, there are often a number of laws to legalize the use of medical marijuana, and then another set of end-of-business laws that legalize cultivation and production for medical purposes (whether in the country) was grown in or for export). Some countries, like Lesotho, have skipped the entire first step of legalization for their own residents and went straight to the end of business.

Belgium followed the standard here and introduced a medical cannabis program a few years ago that is only now beginning to emerge with the advent of laws to open the end of business for cultivation and production in Belgium itself.

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Cannabis laws in Belgium

Belgium is a country with intermediate laws when it comes to the admissibility of cannabis. From personal usage rights to Spanish-style social clubs to hemp loops, Belgium has been on the liberal side of cannabis for quite some time and always has a firm grip on what can be legally offered.

As in most countries, possession of cannabis is illegal in Belgium. The personal use laws established in 2003 allowed small amounts of cannabis to be prosecuted, with more specific provisions in 2005 stating that this small amount was three grams. Smoking near places where children are involved can result in 3-12 months in prison and / or a fine of € 8,000-800,000 (adjusted for inflation).

The sale of cannabis is illegal, as are all delivery crimes. However, when it comes to growing, residents can grow a plant. More than one is a legal gray area, and each plant grown must contain 0.2% THC or less.

Cannabis clubs

Cannabis associations are generally associated with a gray area in Spanish law that creates a gap through which associations (private organizations) can be created in which members have access to cannabis without legal effects. Spain's clubs have acted fairly freely over the years and have essentially become part of the country's culture.

Of course, these social clubs can be found in many other places, including Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Belgium. The Belgian model is based on the Spanish model (since each country needs a legal loophole on which these clubs can rely). The first was started in 2006 and now a handful are in operation.

Medical cannabis

In 2015, Belgium legalized the use of approved medical marijuana products like Sativex and CBD powder. Only drugs like this have been approved and no real cannabis flowers. One of the provisions for medication was that there could be no traces of THC in master preparations for medical purposes. This severely limited the amount of CBD cannabidiol supplements that could be used, since almost all of them contain a certain amount of THC. This meant that only pre-packaged drugs without THC content were possible.

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In July 2019, the Federal Agency for Drugs and Health Products (FAMHP) reinterpreted the royal decree of 2015 with the update that trace amounts of THC in judicial preparations could be permitted as long as the degree of contamination corresponds to 0.0005% or .0005% less. This new interpretation opened the door for more CBD products for medical use. A royal decree of 2017 made it clear that cannabis-derived products (of the pre-packaged variety) contain up to 0.2% THC and can still be legal (although this does not apply to the preparations listed above).

The Belgian system does not require that patients have a card, but that they qualify for medication based on their condition and symptoms. According to the laws for personal use, patients can grow a plant for their own use as long as the THC content is 0.2% or less.

The medical cannabis upgrade

On April 7, 2019, a law was passed amending the Federal Office for Drugs and Health Products, which provided for the establishment of a cannabis office to monitor the commercial cultivation and production of cannabis in Belgium. This office has the possibility to grant licenses for cultivation and to buy the product from these producers for distribution within Belgium or for export to other countries.

With the inclusion of this law, Belgium is able to grow its own product for use instead of relying on imports from other countries. It also enables entry into the global medical marijuana market, including any profits that can be made by both the government and the private sector.

The hemp gap

The same changes that provided the legal framework for a commercial cannabis market also established a regulation for the sale of hemp flowers with a THC content of 0.2% or less. Prior to this change, a loophole in Belgian industrial hemp laws and a lack of clarity under the EU regulation had left an opening in which products made from hemp could be marketed as CBD products. This gap allowed various retailers to sell industrial hemp products as CBD products.

This is, of course, a space in between, as CBD products are to be sold as pharmaceuticals and pharmaceuticals have to be regulated by the Belgian federal authorities. If no medical claims are made, sellers can get away without being regulated by the Federal Medical Agency or the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain, as this agency does not regulate CBD oils as long as they are not listed for consumption. By correctly marketing the products, suppliers were able to sell all cannabis products without any regulations.

Aside from this lack of regulation, there was also a recognizable place for the government to introduce taxes. In April 2019, Belgium classified hemp flowers as smokable products that should be considered tobacco products and should be taxed – at a rate of 25%! This type of classification (with tobacco) has caused many problems in other countries and will likely need to be re-examined as it becomes less bearable to legally keep the two very different plants together. However, laws are currently structured in this way, and CBD products are now subject to the same taxes and legal requirements for manufacture and sale.

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Belgium is not the first country to do something about cannabis, but it has remained rather negligent with countries in the EU and beyond. With the introduction of new regulations regulating the CBD and medical cannabis markets, Belgium is improving its legal cannabis game and bringing new life to a slowly moving medical cannabis system.

However, it should be noted that the new classification of smokable CBD flowers as tobacco products may lead to predictable confusion and concern in the future, as the two types of products are legally linked.

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Beth Edmonds