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Christiania raid spurs new debate on legal cannabis

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Christiania raid spurs new debate on legal cannabis
Friday's police raid of Christiania looked dramatic but it only stopped sales for a matter of minutes. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Scanpix
12:24 CEST+02:00
After the weekend’s massive police raid on the open-air cannabis market Pusher Street, a number of prominent figures in law enforcement have called on Denmark to stop fighting a losing battle and legalize cannabis.
Friday’s raid on Pusher Street saw around 100 officers tear down 37 cannabis stalls, arrest 18 people and confiscate nearly ten kilos of cannabis. 
 
But there is growing criticism that the massive display of police force was not only ineffective, given that cannabis sales resumed within minutes, but the completely wrong way to go. 
 
Video footage of the raid and the immediate resumption of cannabis sales from Christiania-based documentary group Cadok can be seen here. Story continues below.
 
 
A number of people in both law enforcement and parliament have used the raid to renew the debate about legalizing cannabis in Denmark. Among them is senior prosecutor Anne Birgitte Stürup from the Copenhagen Public Prosecutor Office (Statsadvokaten). 
 
“I personally believe we should legalize the sale of cannabis because this is a fight we cannot win,” she told Jyllands-Posten
 
“We’ve tried fighting this for so many years and have gotten nowhere. We cannot stop the use of cannabis by outlawing it. It is expensive and is of very little use,” she continued. 
 
 
Denmark has long debated the legalization of cannabis. Copenhagen officials have thrice requested a trial programme that would legalize the drug in the city, with sales handled by public authorities. Each time, the request has been rejected by parliament. 
 
Although the city has not renewed its push since May 2014, the Christiania raid has seemed to rejuvenate support for a trial legalization. 
 
The former chief inspector of the Copenhagen Police, Per Larsen, told Jyllands-Posten that the city’s trial plans should be allowed to move forward. 
 
“The money is going into the wrong hands today and I think it could be used for something much more positive, for example preventative measures and rehab for those suffering from cannabis psychosis,” Larsen said. 
 
It’s estimated that Pusher Street’s cannabis market brings in at least one billion kroner per year. 
 
Former public prosecutor Erik Merlung also told the newspaper it was time for a change of course and accused those in parliament of “shutting their eyes to reality”. 
 
“You make huge raids on Christiania in which all of the stalls are torn down in the afternoon and then up and running again the next morning  – if not in Christiania, then other places in the city,” he told Jyllands-Posten, adding that the current strategy is “hopeless”. 
 
Health Minister Sophie Løhde of the ruling Venstre party told Jyllands-Posten that the government is against legalizing cannabis. Old-guard parties the Social Democrats, the Danish People’s Party and the Conservatives are also firmly against legalization, while Liberal Alliance and The Alternative support legalization.
 
A video from Friday's action with English subtitles can be viewed here:
 
 
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