Christianians Speak Out Against Cannabis Prohibition
While in the area, I met with Christiania resident Maxime A.*, who was born and raised in the community. Maxime, 26, volunteers in Christiania, cares for a teenage boy with epilepsy, works in Christiania and elsewhere in Copenhagen, and is part of a committee that meets weekly to discuss how to rid Christiania of the gang violence that ultimately led to the shooting back in August. Although Maxime only uses cannabis occasionally, it is an integral part of his life.
“Christiania wants a hash market. The thing that we wanted after the tearing down was it to be transparent…just regular, kind people selling and buying,” he says. “[At community meetings] we’ve been talking about just building one big place where they can all be… We considered having people come in and work for free and sell hash at a stand to make a statement. We’ll even risk going to jail, even regular people who don’t smoke. It’s been very tiring,” he adds.
“A few weeks after the incident with the police, there was so much momentum for talking…about legalizing cannabis, until a month ago, and then the flame went out.”
Maxime says the community’s choice to shut down their own stalls was a direct protest against the gang violence tied to the cannabis black market. “A few weeks after the incident with the police, there was so much momentum for talking…about legalizing cannabis, until a month ago, and then the flame went out,” he says.
Danish politicians have repeatedly brushed aside efforts to legalize cannabis over the years; Copenhagen, for instance, has requested (and been denied) a trial program for cannabis legalization three times. Shootings are just one negative effect of putting legalization off indefinitely; others have taken a toll over longer periods of time. “I would say from Christiania many kids from my generation at least grew up with this negative idea of the police, they were always looking in our windows, my sister and I have been stopped many times, checking our bags. It was very unpleasant,” Maxime recounts. “It didn’t really seem like they were there to help us. I always kind of felt like a criminal living in Christiania.” He is quick to note that this isn’t the fault of individual police officers; rather, it’s a larger matter that could be addressed by legalization.