Street Renovation Begins in Denmark’s Christiania To Deter Illegal Cannabis Sales

Street Renovation Begins in Denmark’s Christiania To Deter Illegal Cannabis Sales

Volunteers were invited to remove cobblestones from the famous street to make room for government-funded renovations and a fresh start.

The residents of Freetown Christiania, located in Copenhagen, Denmark, recently began to physically dismantle a part of its community where hash has been sold illegally for decades. According to recent reports, residents began removing the cobblestones on “Pusher Street” on April 6 to deter violence and illegal cannabis and hash sales.

Prior to April 6, residents began to ask for help from volunteers to pull up the cobblestone street. Anyone was welcome to participate, and could take home one cobblestone as a souvenir.

Removing cobblestones on Pusher Street was performed as a demonstration of the residents taking back their community and promising to rebuild. In doing this, they will be granted 14.3 million kroner (approximately $1.3 million USD) from the government to fund street renovation. According to AP News, two Christiania children were the first to lift cobblestones from Pusher Street.

“For more than 40 years, Christiania and the illegal sale of drugs out here has been a huge thorn in the side of the established society,” said Danish Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard. “But now we have reached the point where the Christianians have also had enough of the [criminal] gangs.”

Copenhagen Mayor Sophie Hæstorp Andersen spoke with Reuters about the historic decision. “Pusher Street has to die in order for Christiania to live,” Andersen said. “The crime scene we have seen here has been so violent… we cannot have a Christiania that is dying out because people don’t dare to be here and where we see the local Christianites being threatened by greedy pushers and dealers.”

The future of Pusher Street will include “a new Christiania without the criminal hashish market,” according to a statement from Christiania public housing coordinator Mette Prag, who has called Christiania his home for 37 years.

Another resident who has lived in the enclave for 40 years expressed their interest in removing hash from Christiania’s future. “We don’t want the gangsters anymore. There might be some people selling hashish afterward, but it’s not going to be in the open,” said Hulda Mader.

Most locals are looking forward to Christiania’s new slate. “To me, Pusher Street is actually the least unique, right? It is what I associate with violence, gangs, murder, threats, and everything which are actually antonyms to what Christiania is,” said resident Mathilde Brandstrup.

The government funds will help the community install new water pipes and pavement, while buildings near Pusher Street will also receive renovations. While the overall goal is to transform Christiania into what AP News calls “an integrated part of the Danish capital area,” but will still retail the “free state” spirit that it has long been known for.

Christiania was first established in 1971 by hippies who occupied in former army barracks, and Denmark officials have allowed the unique settlement to remain independent, even though illegal cannabis sales in the area became known worldwide to curious tourists. Originally, residents who founded Christiania didn’t obtain permits to build houses, didn’t pay utility bills, and others could only move into the area if they were related to someone who was a resident. Residents received rights to their land in 2011, when the land (about 84 acres) was sold by the state to a foundation owned by Christianians. Now it’s home to 800 adults (25% of whom are over 60 years old) and 200 children.

Christiania was the focus of Denmark law enforcement starting in 2004, which led to an increase in police raids. While many residents took down their hash sales booths for a time, they soon returned.

However, an increase in violence and gang activity has also concerned both Denmark leaders as well as Christiania residents. In 2021, one individual was shot and killed at the entrance of Pusher Street, followed by another death in 2022 involved a hash seller.

Most recently in August 2023, two masked gunmen open fired within a Christiania building, killing one individual and injuring four others. Mayor Andersen spoke out against the event, and asked tourists to avoid the area. “The spiral of violence at Christiania is deeply worrying,” Andersen said. “The hundreds of thousands of visiting tourists and the many new foreign students who have just moved to Copenhagen to stay away and refrain from buying weed or other drugs at Pusher Street.”

Adult-use cannabis is illegal in Denmark, although medical cannabis is permitted through a limited pilot program that launched in March 2018.

The Danish Parliament’s Health Committee announced in September 2023 that it had destroyed an estimated 320,862 pounds of dried cannabis, all of which came from the medical cannabis program. The government explained that the destroyed product was either “discarded” or “faulty.”

The Denmark medical cannabis program produced a total of 4,656 pounds of medical cannabis in 2019, followed by 14,521 pounds in 2020, and 71,502 pounds in 2021.

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Region: Denmark

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