Jury still out on government’s hash crackdown

Politicians generally agree that the past years’ police raids on Christiania’s hash trade have been unsuccessful, but they differ on forwarding a viable solution
The Copenhagen Post (Denmark)
Thursday, March 18, 2010

It was exactly six years ago this week that police conducted their first full-scale raid on Pusher Street, the famed road in the city’s Christiania area where people could openly buy hashish. The raids were the result of the Liberal-Conservative government’s decision to crack down hard on the area’s hash trade. But today, both police and politicians admit that the trade still thrives on the street, if in a somewhat more discreet fashion.

A major difference between now and then is that the dealing is now controlled by the hardest groups of pushers, who have managed to withstand the regular raids. Police say that some of those people have gang connections, and much of the past year’s gang warfare has been directly linked to the drug trade.

‘If the goal was to stop the trafficking of hashish in Christiania, then it has absolutely not succeeded,’ Peter Ibsen, president of the Police Officers Federation, told MetroXpress newspaper. ‘I think the best thing you can say is that the booths are gone in Pusher Street. But hash is still being sold as much as it ever was.’

Those booths have instead been traded in by sellers for fold-up tables and wooden blocks featuring the various types of hashish and pot on offer.

According to police, the main reason why they have failed to completely stop the hash trade is that it requires enormous resources.

Politicians are still split on the matter, with the left-of-centre parties believing that things were better at Christiania when it was left to its own devices.

‘So far a ban and a massive police operation have not produced any results,’ said Karina Lorentzen, legal spokeswoman for the Socialist People’s Party. ‘We simply have to study the situation more thoroughly so we can get some better ideas of how we deal with marijuana trafficking and the increasing misuse of hash.’

Lorentzen said the only thing the police raids have done has been to spread the hashish trade out into the rest of Copenhagen. She has proposed that the government set up a hash commission to examine the issue more closely.

Kirsten Larsen, a Christiania resident and member of the Christiania press group, believes there may even be more dealing now than there was six years ago.

‘Anybody can see that Pusher Street is alive and functioning. I’d even say the trade is growing because there may not be enough funding available for the same massive police actions that began in 2004,’ she said.

Larsen said that one noticeable difference, however, is the somewhat more tense atmosphere of the area, which is in stark contrast to the period before 2004. She said it can often feel as if ‘eyes nervously follow you around’.

‘But that’s because the police raids have left only the hardest criminals controlling the trade. And that inevitably means that we have to fight internally to keep the harder drugs out of Christiania.’