Denmark shuts down cannabis street in Christiania hippie enclave

COPENHAGEN — Residents in Copenhagen’s famous hippie enclave Christiania began digging up its main street known for its cannabis trade on Saturday, hoping to free the area of criminal gangs following multiple deadly shootings.

After tolerating the illegal sale of cannabis for more than 50 years in the former army barracks claimed by hippies during the 1970s, authorities and the residents of Christiania decided this year to dig up what is known to locals as ‘Pusher Street.’

Freetown Christiania has developed into a major tourist attraction with more than half a million visitors a year, but an increase in gang violence linked to drug trafficking in the area has concerned both residents and authorities.

“We have always said we support free hash but it’s not possible,” said Hulda Mader, a spokesperson for Christiania. “We want the street to be ours again.”

Police have in recent years removed the cannabis booths from time to time only to see them rebuilt shortly after.

“Pusher Street has to die in order for Christiania to live,” the Mayor of Copenhagen Sophie Hæstorp Andersen told Reuters.

“The crime scene we have seen here has been so violent … we cannot have a Christiania that is dying out because people don’t dare to be here and where we see the local Christianites being threatened by greedy pushers and dealers.”

In August, a 30-year-old man was fatally shot and four more were injured in the streets of Christiana, the most recent in several deadly shootings linked to organized crime.

Locals were invited to claim cobble stones as souvenirs from the famous street on Saturday, after police tore down the booths.

“To me, Pusher Street is actually the least unique, right? It is what I associate with violence, gangs, murder, threats, and everything which are actually antonyms to what Christiania is,” said Mathilde Brandstrup, a Christiania local.

Danish police will remain present in Christiania and in the surrounding area “as long as it is necessary” to prevent sales of illegal drugs resuming, Deputy Chief Superintendent Simon Hansen said. 

The residents in Christiania live autonomously with self-declared rules, although they are not recognized as their own town by Copenhagen authorities.

Danish pop singer Lukas Graham was born and raised in Christiania, and has written several songs about his life growing up in the hippie enclave. — Reuters