XTC exhibition in Ghent triggers debate on drug policy

An exhibition focused on ecstasy has opened in Ghent. The aim of the organisers is to trigger a debate on an alternative drug policy. Visitors can give their opinions about legalisation of the drug, which will be used to make a policy report for decision-makers.

With the experimental exhibition, in a building in the centre of Ghent, the non-profit Smart on Drugs is advocating for an alternative drug policy, which decriminalises the use of drugs. It wants to make people think about what would happen if the government took control of the production and sales of drugs like ecstasy/MDMA.

"We are thinking from the perspective of health: in an illegal market, you have no insight into the quality of the products and their lifespan,” Steven Debbaut of Smart on Drugs, a researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, told public broadcaster VRT. “We feel decision-makers should consider other drug policy models. At the moment, both demand and supply are not decreasing.”

Visitors first pass through a drug lab setting that illustrates the illegal, dubious conditions in which drugs are produced today, without any quality control. They then visit three possible sales outlets for the future: a pharmacy, a nightclub and a "smart shop", modelled on the coffee shops in the Netherlands. At all these outlets, visitors are asked about an alternative drug policy, looking at issues such as legalisation, price setting, rules on advertising.

On the basis of visitors' responses, Smart on Drugs will make a policy report. A debate on drug policy is taking place with representatives of all Flemish political parties on 6 May.

Before its opening, the exhibition was criticised by the youth wing of Flemish nationalist party N-VA, which criticised the financial support of 2,000 euros from the city of Ghent. “The normalisation of drugs is never a solution and certainly not with taxpayers' money,” Young N-VA said. “That money would have been better used for a prevention or awareness campaign.”

The exhibition concept comes from the Netherlands. In 2022, 1,500 people visited a similar event in Utrecht. It runs until 15 May and is free to enter.


#FlandersNewsService | MDMA tablets, also known as ecstasy © BELGA PHOTO JONAS ROOSENS


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