Amidst a new debate on cannabis, spurred by a massive police action at Christiania, a majority of Danes are in favour of legalization.
Berlingske newspaper published a Gallup poll on Monday showing that 45 percent of Danes think it should be legal to use cannabis, while 41 percent think it should continue to be forbidden.
Additionally, a full 88 percent of respondents supported legalizing cannabis for medical use and of those who support legalization, 72 percent said the state should control the sales.
The poll results come after police have cleared Christiania’s open-air cannabis market, Pusher Street, three times since June 17th. Each time, stalls are rebuilt and sales continue after officers leave the area.
A number of prominent law enforcement officials have also spoken out in recent days about the “hopeless” strategy currently embraced by the government.
“I personally believe we should legalize the sale of cannabis because this is a fight we cannot win,” senior prosecutor Anne Birgitte Stürup from the Copenhagen Public Prosecutor Office (Statsadvokaten) 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.”
Cannabis has been sold in Christiania’s Pusher Street ever since radical Danes squatted a former military barracks in 1971 in an attempt to create a 'free town', independent of state authority.
Pusher Street sales are estimated to total one billion kroner a year, money that legalization proponents argue currently ends up in the hands of organized criminals but could be redirected to state coffers if Denmark followed the likes of Portugal, Uruguay and several US states and opted to legalize cannabis.
Health Minister Sophie Løhde said the government has no plans to follow the wishes of a majority of Danes.
“I do not support legal cannabis and the Gallup figures don’t change that. It’s possible that some things would be easier if we let loose but I fear that legal cannabis would result in more people developing a substance abuse problem. And that particularly applies to young people,” Løhde told Berlingske.
Earlier this year, public figures from Colorado, which began legal cannabis sales in 2014, showed that teen usage has dropped since before the legalization and that Colorado teens smoke weed less frequently than the US national average.
The Danish government, however, has chosen to not only continue its strict prohibition approach but is also suggesting new measures to further the crackdown. Justice Minister Søren Pind said that the government plans to introduce so-called ‘zone bans’, that would prohibit anyone convicted of being involved in the illegal cannabis trade of coming within 500 to 1,000 metres of certain areas, including Christiania.