Copenhagen’s weed dealers may be in peril after five straight days of police crackdowns. Every day since Friday of last week, law enforcement officers have raided the infamous Pusher Street in Denmark’s capital. The well-known but illegal cannabis market is located in an alternative community known as Christiania. Squatters founded the hippie enclave on a retired military base in 1971.
Although the recreational use of cannabis is illegal in Denmark, vendors on Pusher Street regularly sell cannabis and related items from stalls in an open-air market. In the past, law enforcement has allowed Pusher Street to exist without too much interference. Police busted the area frequently, but ineffectively. With scouts nearby to tip off the dealers to police activity, raids were usually followed by a quick rebuilding of the marketplace. But that changed on May 31, when the current rash of raids began. Since then, police have arrested pot dealers and dismantled their makeshift shops on a daily basis.
Police Raids Having Their Effect
Deputy Chief Superintendent Lars Ole-Karlsen commands a special police unit that is conducting the raids. He told local media that his team’s efforts are beginning to show results. As police continue their raids and close down the pot stalls, fewer and fewer vendors are choosing to rebuild. He also noted that the shops that return are becoming less elaborate.
“We can state that, where on Friday there were 33 fully functioning stalls built with timber and plywood, the stands are now much more primitive. They are made of milk crates, and there are hardly any of them,” he said.
But at least some of Pusher Street’s weed and hash dealers are changing their tactics. After some vendors began selling their wares from bicycles, Ole-Karlsen warned that they were also in jeopardy.
“Our hope is that they are getting the message. Things like [bicycles] used for shady business will be confiscated,” he said.
Lawmaker Calls for Legalization
But some Danes don’t agree with stepped-up enforcement and believe that a change in drug policy is in order. MP Henrik Sass Larsen, of the Social Democrat party, has called for the legalization of cannabis and other drugs. He said in an interview that the war on drugs has been a “complete fiasco.”
“Everything we’ve done in the last 50 years has been in vain,” Larsen said. “There are not fewer people using or abusing drugs. Every school child knows where they can get hash. It has served no other purpose than to send a whole lot of people to prison, and the volume of resources society has spent on it has exploded.”
Larsen added that his views are his own, and not the policy of the Social Democrats.
Police Vow to Stay the Course
For now, though, Ole-Karsen says police will continue the crackdown on Copenhagen’s weed dealers.
“We are continuing the strategy we have had of late, only now with more resources and thereby an intensified effort,” he said.
He also warned that police will take down any new cannabis stalls on Pusher Street.
“If the stands are rebuilt, we’ll remove them,” he said.