The Legal Situation of Cannabis in Denmark

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Denmark is quickly becoming one of the largest cannabis growers in Europe. As of the 2nd of March, 2020, the Danish government has authorised more than 40 cannabis companies to cultivate and handle marijuana in order to produce medicinal-grade products.

But what’s the legal situation of cannabis in Denmark? Can residents or tourists use marijuana without getting into legal trouble? Let’s find out.

Is recreational cannabis legal in Denmark?

The cultivation, possession and distribution of cannabis are illegal in Denmark. The use of cannabis is technically not illegal, but since owning marijuana is illegal, people who use it will probably get in legal trouble as well. In recent years, Denmark shifted from a tolerant approach toward cannabis to a zero-tolerance one.

Cannabis is considered a soft drug, and Danish law enforcement agencies usually issue fines to punish possession, especially for first offences. According to the law, cannabis possession for personal use can attract anything from a warning to a maximum of two years of prison.

But both the warnings and the two-year imprisonments are only issued in limited circumstances. Most first offenders are let off with a fine, especially if they didn’t have more than 10 grams of hashish or 50 grams of cannabis on them.

If the prosecutor determines that the offender intended to sell cannabis, the sentence can be extended to 12 years of prison or more, depending on the aggravating circumstances.

Christiania — a formerly tolerated cannabis market in Copenhagen

Until recently, Denmark’s approach to cannabis control has been less strict than that of its Scandinavian neighbours, Sweden and Norway. But in recent years, the trends have changed. Norway’s government is pushing towards decriminalising drug use, whereas Denmark is pushing towards imposing harsher restrictions.

One good example of how relaxed the Danes were about cannabis is Christiania. Christiania is a partially autonomous community of about 1,000 inhabitants in Copenhagen. The neighbourhood is known for its colourful buildings, car-free streets, alternative creative scene and cafes that make it a popular tourist attraction.

From its creation in 1971 to 2016, Christiania was also known for its open marijuana trade. The Danish authorities mostly tolerated Christiania’s cannabis market because the community managed to keep hard drugs out of its neighbourhood.

Pusher Street, one of the streets in the centre of Christiania, was considered one of the largest cannabis markets in Europe in the early 2000s. Danish authorities estimated that 3.6 tonnes of cannabis were distributed between October 2003 and March 2004. In March 2004, the police raided Christiania, arrested more than 20 people and broke down the stalls dealers used to sell marijuana.

The people living in Christiania rebuilt the stalls and continued to trade cannabis, albeit less openly, until 2016. After a brief shootout between the police and a suspected drug dealer, the residents of Christiania tore down the stalls and urged people coming to the neighbourhood not to buy cannabis. It was estimated that the community’s efforts led to a drop in marijuana sales of about 75 percent in about 2 months.

Marijuana in Danish politics

Christiania is often referenced in Danish politics. In 2018, the Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti) mentioned the events in Christiania when calling for harsher punishments for cannabis trafficking.

At the moment, most political parties oppose cannabis legalisation or decriminalisation. And the parties that think cannabis should be allowed in society did not gather political support for legislative proposals regarding weed.

However, the issue of cannabis legalisation is constantly brought up in the Danish parliament and media. In 2018, one of the leading members of the Democratic Party’s Parliamentary Group spoke about decriminalising marijuana, contrary to the official party line.

Copenhagen’s city council intends to launch a trial project that would allow cannabis to be sold legally throughout the capital. And 44 out of the city’s 55 representatives voted in favour of a proposal to establish five or six cannabis dispensaries in the capital.

But even though the subject of decriminalising recreational cannabis comes up in politics now and again, medical marijuana has been prominent in the Danish media as of late.

Medical marijuana in Denmark

On the 1st of January 2018, Denmark legalised medicinal marijuana for a four-year trial period. Prior to this, doctors were allowed to prescribe certain cannabis-based products like Sativex to patients who suffered from multiple sclerosis (MS).

The trial period that began in 2018 allowed doctors to prescribe a broad variety of cannabis products that don’t have to be previously approved by the Danish Medicines Agency. In addition, doctors in Denmark can now prescribe marijuana to patients who suffer from spinal cord injuries and chronic pain or are undergoing chemotherapy treatments.

That being said, doctors in Denmark can only prescribe cannabis treatments to patients who have exhausted all conventional treatment options.

One of the things that make this trial program stand out is that Danish patients can receive cannabis prescriptions from doctors operating in other EU countries. Patients who are unable to find a physician willing to prescribe cannabis in Denmark are legally allowed to consult a doctor in Germany or the Netherlands to get their cannabis treatment. Patients can enter Denmark with their medicine as long as they present the prescription.

Is CBD legal in Denmark?

Cannabidiol (CBD) products are legal in Denmark if their tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content is lower than 0.2 percent. You can buy CBD oil online and in health food stores without a prescription. Companies are not allowed to sell CBD products that claim to have medical benefits.

Will Denmark legalise cannabis anytime soon?

Denmark is now one of the largest cannabis producers in Europe, and the medical marijuana trial shows that the Danish government is planning to legalise cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Now, as far as recreational cannabis is concerned, things will probably not change in the near future. Danish lawmakers might wait to see how things develop in neighbouring countries, such as Germany or the Netherlands, before proposing any legislative changes regarding the legal situation of cannabis.

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