Copenhagen Police stopped vehicles around Christiania this afternoon as part of a co-ordinated effort to crack down on drivers who operate their vehicles under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Police announced earlier in the day that they would be initiating a nationwide effort, both today and tomorrow, to catch revellers who may have indulged in too much Christmas beer as the traditional ‘J-dag’, the day on which Tuborg’s mass-produced Christmas beer is released, arrives on Friday.
But police also used the opportunity to debut a new piece of equipment they’ve dubbed the ‘Narkometer’, which can measure the presence of various substances including THC, the active chemical in cannabis. If police suspect an individual of being under the influence, the driver will be asked to swab the inside of their cheeks with a cotton bud that will then be set in the 'Narkometer'. If the apparatus indicates a positive result, the police will then take a blood sample to confirm the presence of drugs.
Police put the new tool to work on Thursday afternoon around the alternative freetown of Christiania, where cannabis is sold openly and where police have vowed to increase their efforts to cut down on the drug trade through its Task Force Pusher Street.
“Our strategy is to hit sellers, buyers and suppliers so that we can get the organised criminality in Pusher Street under control,” Poul Kjeldsen of the Copenhagen Police told DR News. “If you drive under the influence [of cannabis], the hammer will fall and the hammer will fall hard.”
The penalties for driving under the influence of cannabis are indeed rather harsh. A first offence results in a fine equivalent to 1/25 of the offender’s yearly salary and the loss of their driver’s licence for three years. A second offence carries with it a ten-day jail sentence and a five-year loss of licence, while a fourth offence results in 30 days behind bars and a ten-year loss of licence.
By roughly 6pm on Thursday, the police tactic had nabbed 39 drivers for driving under the influence of cannabis.
The use of the new ‘Narkometer’ follows another new tactic revealed early last month, when police carried out a large-scale operation at Christianshavn Metro station targeting the customers of nearby Christiania. A mass inspection of nearly 6,000 Metro travellers netted 258,275 kroner in ticket fines, several arrests and the confiscation of 21 joints, 243 grammes of hash and about eight grammes of pot.
The police’s renewed focus on Christiania came after reports over the summer revealed that the freetown’s largely-unchecked drug trade amounted to a billion kroner black-market industry.
Several local politicians, including Copenhagen’s mayor, Frank Jensen (Socialdemokraterne), have called for the legalisation of cannabis, but the national government has thus far refuted the city officials’ efforts. In September, Jensen argued that the city needed a “paradigm shift” in its approach to cannabis and Christiania, contending that police crackdowns would be at best a temporary solution.
NOTE: This article was updated on 5.11.12 at 19:15 to clarify that the police first take a saliva sample and then, if that is positive, take a blood sample