MP: Approval for city ‘coffee shop’ plan unlikely

Justice Minister to consider proposal to set up state-sanctioned cannabis stores in Copenhagen
The Copenhagen Post (Denmark)
Friday, January 15, 2010

The Copenhagen City Council’s plan to set up shops selling cannabis as a way to remove the market from the control of gangs is not likely to be embraced enthusiastically in parliament, according to a Conservative Party politician. A broad majority of council members have voted for a proposal to run a three-year trial in which stores staffed by healthcare professionals would sell cannabis in small quantities at about 50 kroner per gram – similar to the current street price. Only city residents would be able to buy the cannabis thus preventing Amsterdam-style ‘marijuana tourism’.

But the proposal is hitting a dead end with some MPs.

‘The whole thing’s a waste of time, because a city council doesn’t have any influence on drug laws in Denmark,’ Rasmus Jarlov, a member of the Conservatives in both the city council and parliament, told public broadcaster DR.

‘This issue will be decided in parliament, where there’s a broad majority against it. So I don’t think we ought to be using our time on issues where we have no say,’ he said.

But Copenhagen Mayor Frank Jensen argued the pilot run was necessary to determine whether the plan would have any effect taking business away from gangs, which control the illegal cannabis trade estimated to be worth more than a billion kroner.

‘We have to accept that the present strategy isn’t working,’ Jensen told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

‘It’s time to think about alternative models. And when the goal is to decriminalise the hash market, it’s worth trying our idea.’

Jensen pointed to his past as Justice Minister in defending the proposal, arguing he knew both the positive and negative sides of the issue. He admitted, though, he did not think the plan would completely end tensions between gangs in the city.

‘But fewer young people would come in contact with the gang environment and maybe it would keep people from moving over into harder drugs.’

A spokesman for the Social Democrats at city council said the three-year trial proposal would now be presented to Justice Minister Brian Mikkelsen for consideration.