Mayor and police at odds over cannabis approach

Frank Jensen argues for going a “new way” days after police make small-time busts at Christiania

While Copenhagen’s mayor, Frank Jensen (Socialdemokraterne), continues to be a vocal advocate for legalising cannabis in the city, arguing that a “paradigm shift” is in order, Copenhagen Police took a strikingly different approach Thursday evening.

As part of the newly-announced ‘Task Force Pusher Street’, police arrested 28 individuals at Christiania on Thursday.  All but one of them were cited for possession of small amounts of cannabis, while one was charged with possession of roughly 200 grammes of hash, Berlingske Nyhedsbureau reported. In all, only 350 grammes were confiscated. The buyers were given a 2,000 kroner fine.

Copenhagen Police announced late last month that they would once again start cracking down on Pusher Street, largely in response to criticism that they had allowed the freetown’s drug trade to grow unchecked.

But while the Thursday action may have netted some small fish, Jensen argued that the city “needs to go a new way”.

In an interview with Politiken newspaper on Sunday, the mayor said that the traditional police approach hasn’t worked before and is unlikely to work now.

“For many years, we have believed that more police officers, better equipment and expanded authority was what was needed to fight the cannabis trade in Denmark,” Jensen said. “Every time, we have been disappointed because the sale continues to persevere, and so does the widespread hard criminality that goes along with it.”

Jensen refrained from criticising the new police approach but insisted it wouldn’t work.

“The police have established a Pusher Street group and I’m not going to get involved in that, but I’m just saying that it won’t solve the problem because the cannabis sale will just move somewhere else," he said. "When Pusher Street was cleared in 2004, the sale of cannabis exploded in other places around the city.”

Jensen and the City Council have been vocal about their support of legalising the sale of hash and marijuana in Copenhagen via government-run sales points. The proposal has been rejected by parliament.

Jensen told Politiken that he would continue to push parliament to change its tune, saying that Christiansborg also resisted the idea of a permanent injection room before it finally became a reality earlier this year.

“As long as parliament continues to abandon the cannabis market to the gangs, there is not much more that police can do other than push the problem around and make confiscations. But this hasn’t reduced the quantity that comes in to Denmark,” he said. “As long as there is a market, there will always be someone to satisfy that market.”

Copenhagen Police announced that another raid at Christiania would be taking place this morning.