For 45 years in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, marijuana was openly bought and sold in farmers-market-like stalls on “Pusher Street” or in “Hash Alley,” real place names in the neighborhood of Freetown Christiania, a self-proclaimed “autonomous neighborhood” started by anarchist squatters.
Though Danish cops started cracking down on an increasingly organized cannabis marketplace in the mid-2000s, hash was still readily available at semi-permanent stalls. Much of that came to an end last summer, after two police officers and a bystander were wounded in the neighborhood during an Aug. 31 shooting that authorities say followed a cannabis buy gone bad. Within months, cannabis sales in the area decreased by 75 percent, police boasted.
But you can guarantee Denmark’s marijuana users haven’t dropped by 75 percent, and with cannabis sales still illegal in the country, and nowhere even semi-legit to buy it, what do you think happened? Seizing the opportunity, in swooped industrious entrepreneurs—or, as the police call it, organized crime.
Weed is the suspected reason why police raided a Hells Angels outpost in Copenhagen on Wednesday, according to the Local, a Danish newspaper. Heavily armed and wearing kevlar, police stormed what they described as a clubhouse of the “Nomads” division of the Angels, and arrested eight people, one of whom they described as a “ringleader” in the Christiania weed trade.
Police say the raid was the result of a months-long investigation that began—where else?—with a street-level buy.
As per the paper:
Eight of the arrested men are expected to be charged with “working in a professional and hierarchical organisation which has sold several hundred kilos of cannabis over an extended period”, of which the full Hells Angel member was the head. …
“It is our assessment that we, after a targeted investigation in which we have traced money from the sale of cannabis in Pusher Street to a leading member of Hells Angels, have hit both sale and distribution in Pusher Street hard. It is with great satisfaction that we have has hit these cynical ringleaders with today’s raid. We pursue buyers, sellers and distributors, but it is clear that we are always happy to strike at the heart of the cannabis trade,” Chief Inspector Poul Kjeldsen said in the police statement.
Marijuana is illegal in all its many glorious forms in Denmark, but possession is often punished with nothing more than a warning (or a ticket at worse). Copenhagen has a liberal mayor who has long called for Dutch-style coffeeshops to fulfill an obvious demand for cannabis, but any semi-official marijuana marketplace will require approval from the national government. For a variety of reasons, among them European and international treaties declaring cannabis an evil, evil thing, this is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
In the meantime, Christiania residents themselves are in a bit of a fix.
They’re all for legalization, but understandably don’t want to become a Hamsterdam. (Even anarchists have their limit.) Thus, they have openly called for marijuana-seekers to go elsewhere and for the rest of Denmark to tolerate cannabis sales, but it’s hard to change decades of drug-seeking behavior, so the buyers are still coming—and patronizing whomever they can find, even if they ride a motorcycle and wear leather vests.
And so the dance continues.