Copenhagen mayor Frank Jensen on cannabis experiment

Copenhagen mayor says that the capital city often clears the way for national developments
The Copenhagen Post (Denmark)
Saturday, October 6, 2012

frank-jensenWhile Copenhagen managed to convince the government to let them open a legal injection room to improve the living conditions of drug addicts, they have had less luck tackling the organised crime associated with the cannabis trade – the mayor wants to legalise cannabis, but the government has said ‘no’. So how does the city’s mayor, Frank Jensen (Socialdemo-kraterne), hope to tackle these issues? The Copenhagen Post interviewed him to find out.

The City Council has lobbied the government to legalise the sale of cannabis on a test basis, but this was rejected. How can it be that a Socialdemokraterne-led government does not agree with a Socialdemokraterne-led City Council on this issue?

Copenhagen often sets the agenda with issues that the national political system has not yet understood or considered. For example, the debate about allowing civil unions between gay couples started at the City Hall in 1987, even though national politicians were opposed to it. But we kept up our pressure and in 1989 it was allowed. Another example is drug addicts who were forced to take their drugs out on the streets or in stairwells. We also pushed to allow councils to establish safe injection rooms, and this year Copenhagen opened the first council-run legal injection room.

Now the time has come for us to address the problem with cannabis. Copenhagen is the focus of crime between rival gangs caused by a cannabis trade that is worth almost two billion kroner a year.

But the way we have tried to limit cannabis over the years has not worked. For the past 20 years, we have made it the job of the police to stop the cannabis trade, but cannabis has never been bigger than it is now. That is why we now want to take the trade away from the gangs and create a controlled market where people can buy cannabis and know its strength. The uncontrolled cannabis market results in products being sold on the street that are so strong it can make people psychotic on their first try.

By regulating it we can also bring healthcare professionals closer to people that abuse cannabis. In parliament, the issue of legalising cannabis is a values issue, just like injection rooms and gay marriage used to be. But for us it’s simply a reaction to our reality. We experience the conflict and insecurity created by the gang-controlled cannabis trade in Nørrebro and Christiania. What we now need is a paradigm shift in our perception of cannabis.