Ahead of a City Council cannabis conference on Friday, Copenhagen officials say they are ready to make another push to legalise the substance.
According to prepared documents from the council, the city is proposing a three-year trial, arguing that “the legal sale of cannabis will result in decreased gang criminality, more prevention and a better life for average cannabis users”.
An intriguing element of the plan calls for the possible import of cannabis from the US states of Colorado and Washington, where voters in November legalised its recreational use.
I spoke with the deputy mayor for social affairs, Mikkel Warming (Enhedslisten), about the city's plans.
“If we get the three-year trial, it will be important to work as quickly and effectively as possible, so we are looking abroad for where we could import cannabis,” Warming said. “Yes, we are looking at Colorado and Washington, but we're also looking at places like Great Britain, where there is state-controlled production of marijuana for medical purposes.”
“We realise of course that there are a lot of international conventions and regulations to deal with, but we think it is possible,” he said, adding that despite the production of heroin being illegal, Denmark is still able to legally import it for use in municipal injection rooms.
“The US states of Colorado and Washington recently legalised marijuana for recreational use, so it makes sense to learn from their experiences and to explore the possibility of importing from them.”
Warming said that at this point there has been no formal outreach to officials in Colorado or Washington about the legality or practicality of importing cannabis, but one of the main speakers at Friday's conference will be Peter Holmes, the city attorney of Seattle, Washington.
“It would be strange not to use the occasion to address practicalities with Mr Holmes,” Warming said. He added that Copenhagen would not make any arrangements with Colorado or Washington without discussing the issue with the appropriate federal authorities in the US.
“It is vital that the production and import is legal on all levels,” he said, adding that although cannabis is still an illegal substance on the federal level in the US, he still thinks a solution could be found. “It's possible if there is the political will for it in the United States.”
Regardless of the feasibility of importing cannabis from the US, Warming said that the conference aims to put pressure on the national government to convince parliament that the legalisation of cannabis is a good idea.
“This is common sense,” he said. “As local politicians, we are closer to reality. The ban on cannabis has failed. People can get it anywhere, it is mixed with harder drugs and it finances crime.”
“If we get the trial, which would be a three-year experiment, we will try it and then see what the results are,” Warming said. “If it is successful, we will work towards permanent legalisation in Copenhagen and the whole of Denmark.”
Warming said that, in addition to questions about how to get legal cannabis if the proposal is approved, there are still several details to work out, including who would be allowed to purchase cannabis from city-run dispensaries. Warming said that, due to concerns over “hash tourism”, sales would only be made to residents of Denmark over the age of 18. However, Warming said sales could further be restricted to residents of either the Greater Copenhagen area or just residents of the city itself.
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