The prohibition of drugs has an international character, which has developed over time and is
reflected in the United Nations Conventions, namely:
The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of March 30th, 1961, with a scope limited to drugs with cannabis-, coca- and opium-like effects;
The Convention on Psychotropic Substances of February 21st, 1971, which has a broadened scope and includes natural and synthetic psychedelics, such as psilocybin, psilocin, MDMA, LSD, placed under a Schedule I* classification;
The UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of December 20th, 1988, which is focused on the enforcement aspects of the previous two treaties.
* Schedule I substances are defined as presenting a high risk of abuse, posing a particularly serious threat to public health and having very little or no therapeutic value
It is important to note that the 1961 Single Convention makes a distinction between possession for the purpose of trafficking and possession for personal use. It is the aim of the Convention to criminally punish trafficking, however it does not specifically impose the criminalization of personal use. This distinction should provide countries with the necessary freedom to decriminalize personal use.
Belgium was a signatory to the above Conventions, and although these are not legally binding, their signature indicates support for the principles of the Conventions and the country’s intention to ratify them.
In Belgium, the manufacture, possession and sale of psychedelics is currently illegal. The local legislation has its own layers of complexity and is rooted in the Law of February 24th, 1921. This legislation has undergone several amendments and has subsequently been expanded with various laws, royal decrees and circular letters.
The UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances was transposed into local law in Belgium under the Law of June 25th, 1992, while the most noteworthy amendment to Belgian drug legislation, dating from May 3rd 2003, slightly loosened some restrictions for adults regarding cannabis.
In light of current research, PSBE considers that psychedelics such as psilocybin and MDMA do not fit the definition of Schedule I.
The potential they hold calls for a careful re-examination of current policy, both in Belgium and internationally, and a move towards a framework of compassion which is long overdue.
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