Majority supports legal cannabis

While the government turned down Copenhagen’s bid to legalise marijuana in May, public support for decriminalising the plant remains strong

The legalisation of cannabis is supported by the majority of Danes according to a recent survey by Gallup for far-left party Enhedslisten.

Just over a 1,000 people were asked whether they agreed that the state should take over the sale of cannabis. Some 53 percent replied that they agreed or strongly agreed, while 25 percent replied that they disagreed or strongly disagreed. The remaining 22 percent were neutral.

According to Enhedslisten’s legal affairs spokesperson, Pernille Skipper, the results demonstrate how widespread and common cannabis use is in Denmark.

“Smoking cannabis is common but it is not regulated,” Skipper told metroXpress. “It should be better controlled so we can advise users to ensure they do not consume high levels of THC [the active ingredient in cannabis] and to make sure children cannot buy it. We will also be reducing the income of many organised criminals that currently earn a lot of money from it.”

The outcome of legalising cannabis is not clear to predict, though many experts agree it would probably lead to an increase in consumption. But with organised gangs turning over a billion kroner a year through the illicit sale of marijuana, the question according to Kim Møller, a drugs researcher from Aarhus University, is whether the benefits of legalising outweigh the potential problems.

“There will always be unintended consequences,” Møller told metroXpress. “If you increase the punishment you create a tougher environment with an increased stigmatisation of users, though it probably would not change the total consumption. Legalisation would challenge the black market and lead to an increase in consumption that could also lead to more users.”

The legal affairs spokesperson for coalition partner the Socialistiske Folkeparti, Karina Lorentzen Dehnhardt, also recognises that the legalisation of cannabis would create a complicated web of outcomes.

“There are obvious advantages that Pernille Skipper outlines, but there are also difficult and complicated legal, social and health issues too,” Dehnhardt told metroXpress. “That is why we propose establishing a cannabis commission to make suggestions to reduce the number of abusers.”

This May, the justice minister, Morten Bødksov, turned down a proposal from the City Council to legalise the sale of cannabis in the city over a two-year testing period.

Bødskov cited the potential harmful effects of cannabis, and the likelihood that cannabis consumption would increase if it were legal, as a justification. Some 86.6 percent of respondents to a survey by tabloid Ekstra Bladet supported the trial.

With such far-reaching support for legal cannabis in Denmark, Møller told the Copenhagen Post that Denmark’s commitments to UN drug control resolutions are a major obstacle.

“Politicians have to consider the uniformity of the drug control system and the fact that we have signed these UN treaties that obligate us to criminalise the sale, though not necessarily the possession, of cannabis,” Møller said, adding that Denmark would be making an unpopular move in the eyes of the international community if it did choose to decriminalise the sale of cannabis.

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