Updated 2:07 PM ET January 19, 2001
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) . The Belgian government agreed Friday to decriminalize the use of marijuana, following its neighbor the Netherlands in granting legal tolerance to use of the drug.
The Belgian legislation, which is expected to be approved by parliament early this year, will legalize possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal consumption. It will not allow sale of the drug, unlike in the Netherlands, where "coffee shops" selling marijuana cigarettes are a common sight in many cities.
"We are establishing the basis for tolerance in the law, but our country will remain within the lines of international law," the government said in a statement.
The legislation, which modifies a 1921 law outlawing the drug, will still prohibit use of marijuana judged to be "problematic" to the user or a nuisance to others. The law also allows the cultivation of marijuana plants for personal use.
The decision by the governing coalition of socialists, liberals and greens was criticized by the conservative opposition.