Media accounts mostly played it for laughs when a confused pot dealer cluelessly got into a police car outside the famous squatter community of Christiania in Copenhagen on December 21, apparently thinking it was a taxi-cab. The cops searched him and found 1,000 pre-rolled joints.
The police statement on the caper fairly gloated: “Last night a cannabis dealer from Christiania who wanted to get home quickly got into a taxi. He received a big surprise when he realized it was actually a police car he was sitting in. The police officers were happy to see him since he was carrying around 1,000 joints.”
But this overzealous attitude on the part of the cops in the supposedly liberal Danish capital is worrying.
Cannabis in Christiania, Copenhagen
Copenhagen’s The Local notes in its report on the incident that the police have beefed up their presence around Christiania of late, carrying out several raids and employing drones in a crackdown on dealing in the counter-culture enclave.
A raid on the same day as the poor joint dealer’s mediagenic mishap resulted in a number of vendors’ stands within Christiania being demolished and several kilos of cannabis confiscated.
Christiania is a former military barracks squatted as a “freetown” since the early 1970s and officially recognized as a self-governing entity by Copenhagen municipal authorities since an agreement negotiated with residents in 2011. But cannabis dealing in the enclave has continued to attract unwanted attention from law enforcement.
This latest crackdown on Christiania comes just a year after the Danish government, for yet a fourth time, turned down a request by Copenhagen municipal authorities to allow the city to carry out a trial cannabis legalization program.
Mayor Frank Jensen of the left-wing Red-Green Alliance and libertarian-leaning Liberal Alliance said the program was mandated as a measure to undercut illegal dealers, who have been engaging in a spree of unseemly gunplay in the usually peaceful city.
Copenhagen began studying the legalization idea way back in 2011. But the national government, controlled by a right-wing coalition that includes the hardline Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti), remains intransigent.
Cannabis capitalism advances
This intransigence will have to give, eventually. Even as Denmark’s government remains intolerant on “recreational” use, the Scandinavian country is moving rapidly toward commercial production of medical marijuana. Under a law passed by parliament on December 18, a four-year trial period kicks in with the new year, allowing licensed companies to cultivate cannabis for medical purposes.
The measure comes as part of a general medical marijuana law, but exports are foreseen throughout the European Union. Many clearly anticipate that Denmark will become an important center of production on the continent.
International industry reaction has been swift. Canadian companies Canopy Growth and Aurora—often said to be competitors—have both announced joint ventures with Danish firms to cultivate cannabis for the European medical market in the town of Odense, currently a center of greenhouse tomato production.
The biggest party in the ruling coalition, Venstre, or the Liberal Party of Denmark, supported the legislation. But Venstre is only “liberal” in the European sense of supporting free markets—socially, it is pretty conservative. Yet it closed ranks with the left-opposition to pass the medical marijuana bill into law. One senses they only like cannabis when it is under the control of respectable capitalists, and not the hippies, squatters and anarchists of Christiania.
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