The "Copenaghen Model": Life after cannabis prohibition: The city announces its ambitions

The tide is turning against the criminalisation of cannabis. Portugal, the Netherlands and several US states have to varying degrees decriminalised its use and now Copenhagen has decided to join the movement with a three-year trial to decriminalise the drug.

But while city officials envisage Copenhagen undertaking the world’s most ambitious decriminalisation project – both the production and sale would be legalised – large questions remain about what shape the so-called "Copenhagen Model" would actually take.

Today around 150 attendees gathered in the City Hall’s banquet room to hear the City Council’s plan. “We would like to have fewer smokers, a lower incidence of cannabis psychosis and less crime,” the deputy mayor for social affairs, Mikkel Warming (Enhedslisten), told the audience. “But criminalising cannabis doesn’t work. It’s here to stay. Legalisation won’t be a miracle cure, but it will open up solutions to some of the problems that cannabis creates.”

The conflict is this. One the one hand, the city wants to take the one billion kroner cannabis trade out of the hands of criminals. But the fear is that legalisation could increase consumption. Given the documented connections between mental illness and cannabis use, more users could mean higher rate of mental health problems in Copenhagen.

So the question becomes whether it is possible to decriminalise cannabis while also minimising the number of people who use it. One of the primary goals of the trial is to take the cannabis trade out of the hands of criminals. This would require offering a competitive product at competitive prices from locations in the city that are as accessible as the illegal market.

The city is open to both external and domestic suppliers for its product, which would most likely be sold through an established chain of stores, such as pharmacies. This would be easier to implement during a trial period as having to construct new specialist outlets or expecting the private sector to step up would likely take much longer to get running. 

The conference has confirmed that we need to find our own plan for Copenhagen” mayor Frank Jensen (Socialdemokraterne) said in his closing statements. “We need to end a failed policy and take responsibility. City Hall now needs to take the lead.” 

Copenhagen Post