Life in Christiania beyond Pusher Street

Paper lanterns light up the sky over the road. The air smells like a mix of a pizza restaurant and the back of a van at Burning Man. Men in puffer jackets stand in front of small wooden tables, showing their merchandise of strains of cannabis, hash and joints. Welcome to Pusher Street. 

Feb. 26, 2019

By Adam Murphy & Charlotte Glorieux

Cannabis is the main product sold by drug dealers on Pusher Street, in Christiania (Photo credit: personal)

Christiania, an alternative area of Copenhagen first set up by hippies in 1971, is the home of Pusher Street, the open-air cannabis market in the heart of the city. Cannabis, while illegal in Denmark, is sold by drug dealers or “pushers” openly in this area. 

“It affects the community to have police come here very often, three, four times every day,” said Kirsten Larsen, a Christiania resident of 39 years. “They attempt to arrest the dealers and confiscate the cannabis. What is important to understand about Christiania, is that no hard drugs in here, it’s strictly prohibited, and if you attempt to sell hard drugs, you will be excluded forever. We don’t tolerate hard drugs. Only cannabis products.”

Source: Copenhagen Police Department

When the drug trade first began in Christiania, it was run by residents who simply were pushing for legalization, Larsen said. In current affairs, it is run by gangs, such as the Hell’s Angels. 

There is a visible organization to the market, with the same lookouts who stand out every day and dealers who have specific ways to run and hide their product. 

“We have kind of a hate-love connection to Pusher Street,” Jasper Jensen said, a booking agent for Loppen music venue and Christiania resident. “In the beginning, it was the people who lived out here selling the weed. It is becoming more business. Today, it is gangs who run it. A lot of people who live here smoke it themselves and want it to be legal. They kind of want to have the street, in a symbolic way.”

Due to the organized crime connection to Christiania and increased violence, police presence has increased in the district, having multiple raids and resulting in an almost four times increase in arrests in the past year. 

The cannabis trade is not the only element to Christiania for people to see. The district is known for its alternative lifestyles and focuses on creative people, housing many musicians, artists and businesses, such as Loppen, said Kirsten Larsen. 

“We have our own economy,” Larsen said. “We have in here a consensus democracy. It means we don’t vote to take decisions— we talk to take decisions. We do that in meetings, so we have meetings all the time where we discuss what to do.”

While having an alternative lifestyle is not unique to Christiania, no resident owns their own private property in Christiania. All of the houses and businesses are owned by the community fund and cannot be sold by any residents. When there is an empty spot, there are more than fifty applicants who want to move into Christiania, said Larsen.

Art is very much a part of Christiania, with graffities decorating the walls of the buildings in the community. (Photo credit: personal)

People who live in Christiania do not have an easy life, however. Larsen had to live without water or heat when she first moved there, she said. Many residents have to sacrifice comforts to live in a community that is developed there. Now with Pusher Street, the community deals with the increased police force and raids almost daily. 

“In some ways, it does bother me, but on the other hand it’s better than if you had hard drugs all over the place,” Larsen said. “Because the community in here has a kind of deal going on with the dealers and that is that they are responsible that the hard drugs do not enter our market. It’s a very good thing, because then also you do not get the following criminal activities as much, and the violence and the prostitution and so on. You don’t have it, because there is no hard drugs.”