Denmark Moves Toward Marijuana Legalization

By Tony O'Neill 11/29/11

Copenhagen politicians are pushing for totally legalized, council-sold hashish. National lawmakers may allow it.

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Is Denmark the new Netherlands? Photo via

It's one step back, one step forward in Europe. While Holland begins the slow process of rolling back its longstanding liberal approach to marijuana, authorities in Copenhagen, Denmark are pushing for full legalization of hashish. The proposal would see it sold and taxed legally, just like alcohol. The latest volley in the debate came as Copenhagen’s City Council voted last week to investigate ways to decriminalize the drug. “It’s better that the council distributes hashish and not criminals,” says Social Democrat councilor Lars Aslan Andersen. “I hope we get the opportunity to try a new policy because we can’t just continue the current prohibition strategy with hash, which is very outdated." Copenhagen has form for attempting such forward-thinking legislation. A similar proposal received the backing of Copenhagen’s mayor Frank Jensen in 2010, only to fail when it was blocked at a national level. This time around, it's believed there's enough parliamentary support to pass a rewrite of Denmark’s existing drug policy—a necessary step in moving ahead with the Copenhagen proposal.

Of course, the idea has its detractors. “We strongly urge Frank Jensen as the country’s former justice minister to stop this crazy proposal,” says Martin Geertsen of the center-right “free-market liberal” Venstre party. “We don’t want to make it easier to get hold of hash because then more people would use it and be worse off for it,” Minister of Parliament Ole Hækkerup tells the Jyllands Posten newspaper. “If you look at people who use hard drugs, two thirds of them started with hashish.” Then again, nearly all users of hard drugs start with caffeine, yet no-one's debating the legality of Nescafe. The centrist Radikale party is split: "It’s well known that we have been for and against [decriminalization] within the party,” says Radikale’s Jeppe Mikkelsen, decisively. “Personally I’m not religiously inclined to keep the current model, but we haven’t discussed it yet so we have to look at the proposals and see where we stand.” A special committee will now examine how to proceed with decriminalization, but with such a range of opinions, it seems unlikely that anything will be resolved on a national level anytime soon.

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Tony O'Neill, a regular contributor to The Fix, is the author of several novels, including Digging the VeinDown and Out on Murder Mile and Sick City. He also co-authored the New York Times bestseller Hero of the Underground (with Jason Peter) and the Los Angeles Times bestseller Neon Angel (with Cherie Currie). He lives in New York with his wife and daughter. You can follow Tony on Twitter.