The Uncertain Future Of Freetown Christiania

As we watch new states here in the US and countries around the world legalize marijuana, the stigmas behind being a cannabis consumer, and the ease of acquiring products continues to change rapidly. What was once taboo and conducted in the shadows has made its way to Main Street. Today we’re happy to have Dennis Walker, aka mycoprenuerpodcast on Instagram, come through to share more stories from his travels abroad, this time as he discovers a magical place called Freetown Christiania.

Christiania is a cannabis friendly ‘micronation’ established on a squatted military base in the Danish capital of Copenhagen. 

It was first declared an autonomous zone in 1971 and continues to operate in defiance of official Danish and EU law. The sale and consumption of cannabis is illegal in Denmark, yet kiosks and stalls throughout the enclosed community of Christiania openly sell pre-rolled joints and chunks of hash with remarkably good quality and price point. 

Two friends and I recently visited for the first time, arriving after midnight in pouring rain. I was dubious about the security situation in the area and whether or not it was a good decision for us to check it out so late at night without having a local guide or proper orientation of the community. What we encountered was far more welcoming and structured than my mental projections allowed for, and I quickly realized that Christiania is no Gotham.

Immediately upon entering, I instinctively whipped out my phone to snap a picture of the impressive murals and strings of lights illuminating the complex in a dreamy vortex of spray paint and smoke clouds.

“NO PHOTO!” commanded the vendor at a nearby stall, definitively letting us know the situation up front. 

“A few years ago, you wouldn’t even get a warning – someone would grab your camera or phone and smash it if they caught you taking a photo” said the vendor in a friendly yet firm tone.

We apologized and approached the kiosk to see what they had on deck. They were selling pre-rolls of flower or hash joints for 8 Euro. You can also buy chunks of hash or buds for around the same price point per half gram. 

All of the stalls towards the entrance to Christiania offer hash and cannabis flower, but none are openly advertising any other substances. I have it on good authority that one can find any substance they want in the community, but the open use and advertising of hard drugs is visibly discouraged with signage in the communal bathrooms and postings around the area discouraging hard drug use.

This is normally the point in the article when I’d provide Gonzo style accounts of the journalistic research and due diligence I was required to conduct in Christiania, but I really like Denmark and don’t advocate flaunting the law in such a friendly state. It’s a lovely place, and I’m sure the cannabis there smoked as good as it looked and smelled. 

Christiania is a zone where vices are integrated into life and outside the norm social activity is empowered to exist, which makes a lot of sense to me as an approach to urban planning; create a defined space for people to engage in nonviolent extra-legal activities and contain these within a multiple block radius that doesn’t spill out into the rest of the city. 

Unfortunately, a spate of violent incidents in recent times have jeopardized the future of this counterculture haven. Less than a week after my visit, a 30-year old man was shot to death in Christiania and four others were injured in a suspected gang-related attack. Residents within the notoriously anti-establishment commune have called for an end to cannabis sales, calling the future of the micronation into question. 

Danish politicians have threatened to put an end to the fifty year long ‘social experiment’ happening here, as the intrusion of organized criminal activity has led to an increasing number of violent incidents. Copenhagen is an extremely safe city with comparatively little violent crime, and so the prospect of any amount of gang activity or violence is enough to set off alarm bells in the Danish government. People familiar with the situation commented to me that gangs have taken over the commune, and that it’s not the place it used to be. 

The autonomous community still exists for the moment, and I felt it to be incredibly safe and welcoming in my two visits there. It’s a limited sample size for sure, but I witnessed a merry band of rogues more so than dodgy characters and suspect vibes. I did witness a shoving incident that was quickly resolved, which lent credibility to the principles of community governance and de-escalation rather than tactics often employed by security or police in such incidents in the United States. 

This containment of regulated substance use and anarchist values within an allotted zone reliably demonstrates that a society can have liberal attitudes towards personal freedoms and drug use without allowing these policies to tear apart the social fabric of the city.

There used to be a more open tolerance towards hard drugs in Christiana, but an effort has been made to eradicate the open sale of anything beyond cannabis and alcohol. I was told that ‘too many people were dying of overdoses’, creating unnecessary problems for residents and drawing undesirable scrutiny from authorities. There are stickers in the bathrooms stating that ‘hard drugs are for losers’ and a mural showing a hypodermic needle being crushed, and when we asked a local who frequents the commune, he was extremely blunt in his disdain for hard drug use in Christiania. 

Hard drugs definitely still exist there according to reliable sources, but it’s clear that they are not quite openly available and socially tolerated unless you have connections and know which back doors to go through. 

We were openly welcomed in Freetown Christiania and met the proprietor of a local bar on the dance floor of the most popping nightclub in the district during our second time through the community.

She invited us to another after hours party and we sat around a table with a dozen other people from multiple different countries who all frequented the commune.

The conversation was educated, nuanced, and quite frankly much more interesting than what you usually find at a standard bar on a Saturday night in the states.

We talked about Danish social mores, the history of Freetown Christiania, the political turmoil in the United States, and the importance of places like Freetown Christiania in the ever-homogenizing cultural landscape of globalization. 

As the world continues to accelerate towards surveillance capitalism and a state-controlled drug supply, the continued existence of Freetown Christiania preserves a spirit of independence and anarchy that defined much of the counterculture of the 60’s. Christiania is a living legacy and a testament to community autonomy and peaceful rebelliousness, all rolled up into highly memorable sesh. 

Enjoyed that first hit? Come chill with us every week at the Friday Sesh for a freshly packed bowl of the week’s best cannabis news!

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