After spending 10 days in and around Copenhagen, I’m a total believer that Denmark may be the next country in Europe to legalize cannabis.
Cannabis in Denmark is nothing new. Some of Europe’s most prolific smugglers and enthusiasts walk the streets of Copenhagen. Most of them learned the game on Pusher Street in their youth and either stuck around or went on to do crazy weed stuff all over the world. But the heart of Danish cannabis distribution’s days may be numbered.
Christiania vs The Gangs
For decades, Pusher Street has served as one of the main hubs of Danish cannabis. You could head there to score a personal-size bag or a ton of hash. It’s located a few hundred meters past the front gate of Christiania, the socialist commune squatters started on a retired Danish military base in 1971. At any given time roughly 1,000 adults call Christiania home and it’s one of the most pro-cannabis places on the planet.
But regardless of how much they love weed, the Christianians’ relationship with Pusher
Street has changed a lot over the years. While many of them grew up there buying and selling cannabis, in recent years it’s become a lot more violent. In one of the world’s friendliest cities, everyone is pissed. Even dudes who were selling 20 pounds a day through their stalls at one point are saying things have to change.
They aren’t mad at the weed though. They are mad at the gangs that have chopped up Pusher Street into its current format of about 10 booths where you can buy flowers or hash and a strict no-photography policy. Hell, they’ll even yell at you for talking on your phone without holding your hand over the camera.
Will Violence Lead to Reform?
After a recent shooting on Pusher Street, Christiania called on the authorities to come in and shut down the marketplace that was estimated to have done a million in revenue daily at its peak. But that number is way down. With the kind of violence that Pusher Street has seen recently since the murder, people want nothing to do with it.
One former dealer raised on the street said he wouldn’t even visit anymore.
“It’s like a powder keg,” he told LA Weekly, “You have these guys in the middle of a gang war standing a few meters from each other. Tensions are very high at the moment. If someone just looks at someone the wrong way or feels disrespected, it could go down.”
It was kind of sad to see the heart of one of the fastest developing scenes in Europe in such turmoil. The OGs sit at the cafe next door and reminisce about the good times. While I was sitting there listening to the tales, I saw all the people who had just tried to sell me hash and flower, one successfully, scurry around the corner. Next thing you know, a few cops are walking down the street.
It was more of a show of force than anything. The cops have had a unique relationship with the dealers of Pusher Street for decades. Every now and then they would come clean house and rip down all the stands. The next day everyone would walk up to Christiania’s lumber and recycling yard and hire a crew to rebuild their booth. One recent attempt saw authorities try to close Pusher Street by putting up giant concrete blocks at all the entrances. The blocks were knocked over as fast as they were put up.
The light at the end of the tunnel? The violence on Pusher Street may end up being a vital catalyst for legalization in Denmark. The pragmatic Danes are looking at it from a very public safety perspective. Many believe the only way to stop the violence is to legalize cannabis.
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