Seven hospitalized after eating hash cakes from Denmark’s Christiania

Seven people, including a Dane and a number of tourists, have received hospital treatment after consuming baked products containing cannabis.

Seven hospitalized after eating hash cakes from Denmark’s Christiania
A file photo of Christiania. Photo: Sofie Mathiassen/Ritzau Scanpix

The ‘hash brownies’ responsible for the hospitalizations were bought from Christiania, an alternative enclave within Copenhagen which has an illicit hash trade and is subject to frequent police clampdowns.

Copenhagen’s Rigshospital has treated seven people within the last four weeks with symptoms including low heart rates, unconsciousness and psychosis-like states, broadcaster DR reports.

All seven had eaten a hash brownie – a cake in which cannabis is an ingredient – purchased for 50 kroner in Christiania, the broadcaster writes.

Additional people may have been affected, but the emergency ward at Rigshospital only recently made the connection between symptoms and source, according to the report.

The seven patients were seriously – possible life-threateningly – ill after eating the cakes, which affected their heart rates and circulation, according to Rigshospital.

A Danish citizen along with tourists from Ireland, Germany, the United States, Finland, Spain and Japan were affected, the hospital confirmed to DR. All patients were discharged after two days.

Copenhagen Police said it had confiscated 4,000 hash cakes in 2019. The general figure does not solely refer to items confiscated in Christiania.

Simon Hansen, an inspector with the police special operations unit in the city, reiterated that it is illegal to buy hash products at Christiania and added that police would begin warning about potential acute health hazards.

“Based on what we have recently been told by Rigshospital, we will be advising people that the hash cakes currently may be very dangerous,” Hansen told DR.

“But whether there’s anything unusual in these cakes, we can’t say at this time,” he added.

A police action on Wednesday resulted in 58 people being apprehended for being in possession of cannabis. Recently-confiscated hash cakes are to undergo testing for drugs other than cannabis, DR reports.


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Denmark’s ‘freetown’ Christiania hangs onto soul, 50 years on

A refuge for anarchists, hippies and artists, Denmark's 'freetown' Christiania turns 50 on Sunday, and though it hasn't completely avoided the encroachment of modernity and capitalism, its free-wheeling soul remains intact.

Denmark's 'freetown' Christiania hangs onto soul, 50 years on
Christiania, one of Copenhagen's major tourist attractions, celebrates its 50th anniversary on Sunday. JENS NOERGAARD LARSEN / SCANPIX / AFP

Nestled in the heart of Copenhagen, Christiania is seen by some as a progressive social experiment, while others simply see it as a den of drugs.

On September 26th, 1971, a band of guitar-laden hippies transformed an abandoned army barracks in central Copenhagen into their home. They raised their “freedom flag” and named their new home “Christiania, Freetown” after the part of the city where it is located.

They wanted to establish an alternative society, guided by the principles of peace and love, where decisions were made collectively and laws were not enforced.

Soft drugs were freely available, and repurposing, salvaging and sharing was favoured over buying new.

It was a community “that belonged to everybody and to no one”, said Ole Lykke, who moved into the 34-hectare (84-acre) enclave in the 1970s.

These principles remain well-rooted today, but the area has changed in many ways: tourists weave through its cobblestone roads, and the once-reviled market economy is in full swing.

Perhaps most importantly, it is no longer a squat. Residents became legal landowners when they bought some of the land from the Danish state in 2012.

Now it is home to some 900 people, many artists and activists, along with restaurants, cafes and shops, popular among the half a million tourists that visit annually.

“The site is more ‘normal’,” says a smiling Lykke, a slender 75-year-old with ruffled silver hair, who passionately promotes Christiania, its independence and thriving cultural scene.

Legislation has been enforced since 2013 — though a tongue-in-cheek sign above the exit points out that those leaving the area will be entering the European Union.

‘Embrace change’
It is Christiania’s ability to adapt with the times that has allowed it to survive, says Helen Jarvis, a University of Newcastle professor of social geography engagement.

“Christiania is unique,” says Jarvis, who lived in Christiania in 2010.

“(It) endures because it continues to evolve and embrace change”.

Some of those changes would have been unthinkable at the start.

Residents secured a bank loan for several million euros to be able to buy the land, and now Christiania is run independently through a foundation.

They also now pay wages to the around 40 people employed by Christiania, including trash collectors and daycare workers.

“Money is now very important,” admits Lykke, who is an archivist and is currently exhibiting 100 posters chronicling Christiania’s history at a Copenhagen museum.

But it hasn’t forgotten its roots.

“Socially and culturally, Christiania hasn’t changed very much,” he says, noting that the community’s needs still come first.

‘Judged a little’
Christiania has remained a cultural hub — before the pandemic almost two dozen concerts were held every week and its theatres were packed.

But it is still beset by its reputations as a drugs hub.

Though parts of Christiania are tranquil, lush and green with few buildings, others are bustling, with a post office, mini-market, healthcare centre, and Pusher Street, the notorious drug market.

Lykke says it’s a side of Christiania most could do without.

“Most of us would like to get rid of it. But as long as (marijuana use) is prohibited, as long as Denmark doesn’t want to decriminalise or legalise, we will have this problem,” says Lykke.

While still officially illegal, soft drugs like marijuana and hash are tolerated — though not in excess.

Since early 2020, Copenhagen police have seized more than one tonne of cannabis and more than a million euros.

“Sometimes I don’t tell people that I live here because you get judged a little bit. Like, ‘Oh, you must be into marijuana and you must be a smoker’,” says Anemone, a 34-year-old photographer.

For others, Christiania’s relaxed nature is part of the appeal.

“It’s different from what I know, I really want to see it,” laughs Mirka, a Czech teacher who’s come to have a look around.