Local drug policies in Copenhagen and Malmo

A comparative study of the links between local drug policies and the everyday life on the drug scenes in Copenhagen and Malmo


By tracing the links between national legislation, local implementation and everyday life among marginalised drug users PhD student Morgan Bancroft will explore how local drug policies shape everyday life on the drug scenes in the neighbouring cities of Copenhagen and Malmo. The results from this PhD project will inform both local, national and international discussions on how the action spaces available to marginalised drug users are shaped by different policy strategies.


Denmark and Sweden are often lumped together based on similarities such as welfare state policies and shared cultural traits. However, both the juridical and everyday context for marginalised users in the two countries are marked by significant differences. In terms of harm reduction initiatives targeting marginalised drug users, for example, Denmark has needle and syringe programmes, take-home naloxone programmes, drug consumption rooms and heroin-assisted treatment, while only the former two are available to drug users in Sweden. At the same time, research shows that drug policy should not be viewed in isolation, but rather contextualized in relation to other policy areas, such as social and housing policies. Inner Vesterbro in Copenhagen houses the largest open drug scene in Scandinavia, where drug users meet to deal and consume drugs while utilising various services. In spite of a similar number of drug users, no such scene exists in Malmø, where most drug related activities seem to occur in private and semi-public spaces.

The study

The study consists of two components.

  • The first is a policy study of the aims and strategies of Danish and Swedish drug policies, with primary focus on local strategies of implementation. This will be conducted by gathering and analysing legislation, policy documents as well as expert interviews with social workers, police, and relevant officials in the two cities.
  • The second component is an ethnographic field study of the drug scenes in Copenhagen and Malmø, including qualitative interviewing of approximately 10 drug users in each city.

Together, the two components will illuminate the ways in which everyday life on the drug scenes are shaped by the social, legislative, cultural and physical contexts of the two respective cities.

The project commences on February 1st 2019 and ends on January 30th 2022.


The project is financed by Aarhus BSS Graduate School


The project will be integrated into existing collaborative research between Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research at Aarhus University and the Institute for Social Work at Malmø University