Copenhageners cautiously support legal cannabis, but provinces unconvinced

Poll reveals a solid ‘maybe’ to the idea of a legal marijuana trial

Copenhagen's mayor, Frank Jensen (Socialdemokraterne), has asked for a three-year trial of legal marijuana in Copenhagen and he has a majority of City Hall on his side. Now a slim majority of Danes have said that they think that taking the idea of legal cannabis for a test drive in the capital is a good idea, according to a poll conducted by Rambøll for Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

Just over 52 percent of those responding said that legal hash was a good idea, while 42 percent rejected the plan. Support depended very much on the age and location of the respondent. Young people were strongly in favour, as were those who live in and around Copenhagen. Support thinned out the further that those responding lived from the capital city. For example, only 38 percent of those living in northern Jutland thought legal marijuana was a good idea.

The results did not surprise City Hall spokesperson Ikram Sarwar (Socialdemokraterne).

"Copenhagen residents and those living in the metropolitan area know the consequences of the current situation,” Sarwar told Jyllands-Posten. “They deal with drug dealers in the park and other consequences of the criminal marijuana market and therefore want new initiatives.”

Sarwar said that the poll results are an acknowledgement that current methods being used to control the drug trade – more police, tougher enforcement, and stop-and-search zones – are not working.

The justice minister, Morten Bødskov (Socialdemokraterne), has vetoed previous legal marijuana proposals and remains unconvinced that the idea of a trial is a good one, as do the mayors from towns surrounding the capital and politicians in Sweden.

"Healthy scepticism is a good idea, and legalising cannabis will not fix every problem,” said Sarwar. “Smoking marijuana won’t become healthy just because we make it legal and there will still need to be information and counselling available.”

Even those poll respondents in favour of the trial were reluctant to allow cannabis to be offered at the corner shop, preferring a more controlled and limited availability.

Not every city councillor, or member of Socialdemokraterne, is thrilled by the idea of a legal cannabis trial, however. Council member Sophie Led quit Socialdemokraterne because she did not want to support its efforts to legalise marijuana in Copenhagen.

"It is totally frivolous to launch a study in which you have not clearly defined what you will use the results for,” Led told Jyllands-Posten. “Some say it is about fighting the illegal drug market, some say it is about contact with drug addicts and others say it is to prevent young people from starting to smoke cannabis.”

Led also said that a trial could cost as much as a billion kroner and that the council has not said what they plan to do with any results they may gather during the trial period.

Sarwar countered that resistance to the idea was similar to the debate surrounding injection rooms for heroin users when that idea was first put on the table.

"There was criticism at first, but now they are in place and we can see the positive results," said Sarwar.

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