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Shooting Sours Copenhagen’s Open Hash Market Haven

Shooting Sours Copenhagen’s Open Hash Market Haven

Copenhagen, Denmark’s autonomous neighborhood commune of Christiania (or Freetown Christiania) has tolerated soft drug use for decades on Pusher Street, its main market, but a recent shooting might complicate things for its open hash trade.

On Sept. 4, the mayor of Copenhagen on Monday urged foreign tourists not to buy cannabis in the city’s Christiania neighborhood after a man was killed. Instead of selling cannabis in a regulated retail model as seen in legal U.S. states, cannabis is sold from unregulated dealers like a street drug there. A “bloody feud” between the Hells Angels and Loyal to Family erupted in the culmination of turf wars over cannabis and drug trade. 

“The spiral of violence at Christiania is deeply worrying,” Copenhagen Mayor Sophie Hæstorp Andersen said. She called on “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.”

ABC News reported that on Aug. 26, two masked gunmen opened fire inside a building in Christiania, Copenhagen police spokesman Poul Kjeldsen told the media. One man, age 30, was killed in the shooting and four others were injured. As of Tuesday, one of those injured was in critical but stable condition, while the others had minor injuries.

On Friday, a 28-year-old man, affiliated with the Loyal To Family gang was arrested in relation to the shooting. The Hells Angels have been active in the area, taking advantage of the drug trade freedoms, since the ‘80s. 

Earlier this year, the mayor threatened to close Pusher Street’s drug trade if the 1,000 or so people living in the Christiania commune comply with her plan to reduce violence. (The neighborhood’s population fluctuates between 700-1,000.) Hæstorp Andersen told local paper Ekstra Bladet last May that growing violence has to end or she will shut down cannabis and drug trade in Christiania. The mayor’s warning, however, doesn’t seem to be working.

Christiania remains one of Copenhagen’s top tourist attractions, with major hippie appeal, and many of the visitors are from foreign countries, wanting to get a taste of tolerated hash trade. It’s the Danish Amsterdam in many senses. 

High Times writer Snake Blissken reported in 2017 that the going rate on Pusher Street is 100 kroner—about $15 USD—for 1.5 grams of hash and/or cannabis flower. That’s close to the common $10 per gram price for flower in some U.S. states. Most of the stalls were reported to have various forms of pre-rolls for sale. In that person’s experience, one stall tried to get 200 kroner for a 1.5 gram sack, before quickly backing down to the standard going price.

“It may seem innocent to buy weed for a festive night out but think about the fact that your money ends up in the pockets of criminal gangs who shoot in our streets and put innocent people in danger,” Hæstorp Andersen said.

One particular shooting in 2016 led to public outcry because it involved a police officer who was gravely wounded with a head shot. Before this, the entire nation had not seen a police shooting since 1995. Violence is particularly uncharacteristic of the country.

What is Christiania?

Christiania was transformed from a Naval base on the island of Amager in Copenhagen into a hippie commune when they began squatting in the former military barracks of Bådsmandsstræde in 1971.Squatters began taking upon a more serious anarchist agenda and gathered to establish their own laws, autonomous to the Danish government. On Sept. 16,1971, Christiania was declared to be free by Jacob Ludvigsen, a journalist and provo anarchist. You merely have to walk over bridges over Copenhagen’s canals to get there.

Christiania banned cars from the neighborhood, though there are now a few parking spots for a limited number of vehicles. You can also find alternative architecture, free from housing codes, such as a house made entirely of glass. The neighborhood was once peaceful, but violence has increased in recent years. In 2021, a man was shot and killed at the entrance to Pusher Street. Then last October, a man selling cannabis from booths on the same street was shot and killed. 

While Denmark is one of the most liberal places on the planet, implementing LGBTQ rights since 1933, cannabis is illegal. Christiania is another story, however, and the law is rarely, but occasionally enforced there. 

Per Denmark’s Euphoriants Substances Act—it is illegal to import, export, sell, purchase, deliver, receive, produce, and process cannabis in Denmark. While personal use is not illegal, as of 2016, with the passing of the Consolidated Act on Controlled Substances, possession of cannabis in Denmark is illegal. As with most European countries, hashish is a popular form of cannabis and it’s often mixed with tobacco.

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