By Chris Bovey
On Wednesday 18th December, Belgium police outrageously raided the Mambo Cannabis Social Club and arrested its founder Michel Degens.
Last October, Michel Degens, wrote for NORML UK about the Mambo Social Club, Belgium’s second Cannabis Social Club.
For many years Belgian law has allowed one cannabis plant per person, which has in turn lead to the birth of Cannabis Social Clubs in Belgium.
Michel was on his way for their quarterly meet where they share their legally grown cannabis. There were about sixty members, many of them medicinal users. The police took sixty bags with a total of 1,100 grams of cannabis.
Shortly afterwards, a raid took place on one of the breeding centres of the Mambo Social Club in which all twenty-seven plants and a computer were seized.
All the seized plants had all the correct documentation with them, since the Mambo Club adheres strictly to the Ministerial Directive of 2005, which states that adults can be in possession of up to three grams of cannabis / and or one cannabis plant, unless there is a nuisance or aggravating circumstances.
Using a transparent organic responsible way, the club members, whose average age is 38, can be sure of the purity of the cannabis and do not have to procure it from the criminal black market.
Since the Belgium Ministerial Directive there have been two prosecutions against Belgian Cannabis Clubs, both were unsuccessful and the judge recognised their actions were legal.
Michel Degens told NORML UK they already have legal representation and their lawyer fully expects them to win. “This will be a big test case for Belgium.”
Michel Degens said: “While the raid on the Mambo Club was distressing for our members, we are happy to have the opportunity to finally prove once and for all the Cannabis Social Club model in Belgium is legal.
“The raid at Mambo is extra ironic, because I have several times met with the police to discuss the activities of the club together.
“The police were courteous during the raid and I understand they were acting under the orders of the local Justice Department.
“The guidelines are clear and Mambo adheres to them one hundred percent. A copy of the ID card of the owner and a declaration of ownership was hanging at each plant. Trekt Uw Plant has been acquitted twice. The judges in those cases recognised that Cannabis Social Clubs are not criminal organisations, but rather provide a healthy and safe alternative to the criminal underworld.
“I would particularly like to thank all the messages of support from fellow cannabis activists throughout the world and I would also urge everybody to email the Mayor of Hasselt to show your support for the Mambo Club,” said Mr Degens.
The contact details for the Mayor of Hasselt can be found here – http://www.hasselt.be/nl/content/345/burgemeester-hilde-claes.html
American author and cannabis expert Doug Fine said: “Michel Degens is aiming to show his fellow Belgians what responsible and safe cannabis legalisation looks like, he consulted local police and began a social club based on Belgium’s one-plant-per-person guidelines.
“Michel is simply a kind, terrific, and gentle fellow. His social club is named after his dog Mambo. Like the Mendocino Zip-tie farmers I documented in Too High to Fail, Mich is a top-tier operator and human who simply doesn’t want to be a criminal for choosing a safe, responsible alternative to alcohol.
“The Mambo social club has a several hundred person waiting list, as he tries to figure out how to cultivate for more than his eighty members today — one of his biggest priorities is organic cultivation principles. Belgium today has two other social clubs. It will have hundreds when prohibition ends there as — guess what? — Belgians enjoy cannabis like the rest of humanity does. Only they wash it down with very good chocolate and even better waffles,” said Doug Fine.
Mambo Social Club : facts and figures
- Founded in April 2013 – emerged from Hasselt Department of Draw Up Your Plant (TUP)
- Minimum age of membership: 21
- Number of members : 85
- Number of prospective members on the waiting list : 200 +
- Number of trade fairs as a division of Hasselt Draw Up Your Plant: 4
- Number of trade fairs as Mambo Social Club : 3
- Price per gram (December 2013) : € 7 – €4 for plant care and €3 for administration and other costs.
The plant caregivers take care of the individual plants of the members. Hangs a document to each plant with the data of the owner, a copy of the ID card and a declaration of ownership. Members then meet regularly and swap around 20 grams of dried herbal cannabis per person and a quantity of twigs and leaves. Since not every plant produces the same amount of cannabis. Distribution takes place on the basis of solidarity among the members.
You can see Michel Degens and Doug Fine talk at London Southbank University in the following video on youtube.