Last Friday, more than a hundred Danish police swept into Copenhagen’s hippy enclave of Christiania to attack the hash and weed sellers of the community’s infamous Pusher Street. They tore down 37 stalls and arrested 18 people, carrying off nearly 10 kilos of cannabis by the time they were done.
But it was an exercise in futility. Before police had even left the scene, new stalls had been constructed and new drug sales had taken place.
The raid, coming after previous raid after fruitless raid on Pusher Street, has re-ignited the ongoing debate about legalizing cannabis in Denmark, with members of law enforcement and parliament speaking out.
“I personally believe we should legalize the sale of cannabis because this is a fight we cannot win,” said senior prosecutor Anne Birgitte Stürup from the Copenhagen Public Prosecutor Office (Statsadvokaten). “We’ve tried fighting this for so many years and have gotten nowhere. We cannot stop the use of cannabis by outlawing it. It is expensive and is of very little use,” she continued.
The debate on cannabis legalization is nothing new. Pusher Street was for decades the center of the city’s weed trade as Christiania, a former military base invaded by hippies in 1971, enjoyed existence as an autonomous community within greater Copenhagen. But conservative national governments in recent years have both ended Christiania’sspecial status and regularly attacked Pusher Street, sending the weed trade to street corners around the city.
Copenhagen itself has repeatedly sought a trial program to legalize the trade in the city, with sales handled by public authorities, only to be blocked by the parliament. It’s time to move forward with such plans, said former Copenhagen Police Chief Inspector Per Larsen.
“The money is going into the wrong hands today and I think it could be used for something much more positive, for example preventative measures and rehab for those suffering from cannabis psychosis,” Larsen said.
Another former public prosecutor, Erik Merlung, agreed it was time to change course and accused members of parliament of “shutting their eyes to reality.”
“You make huge raids on Christiania in which all of the stalls are torn down in the afternoon and then up and running again the next morning — if not in Christiania, then other places in the city,” he said, adding that the current prohibitionist strategy is “hopeless.”
Even the cops involved didn’t seem particularly enthused about their mission, as the video below from the scene makes clear. The video was shot by the Christiania-based documentary group Cadok: