BOGOTA — When I hear about people now selling marijuana legally in the United States, I think of all our fellow Colombians who have died over the years fighting America's absurd war on drugs. I think of Luis expand=1] Carlos Galán and Rodrigo expand=1] Lara Bonilla, two politicians gunned down by drug traffickers, and I imagine how these victims could have made Colombia a better place to live. What sense did their deaths have?
Then I hear the story of Jeff Oberfelder, an American marijuana grower whose website details the various strains of cannabis he can sell in the state of Washington. It appears that he became bored with plain old farming, abandoning his apples, cows and poultry, in order to produce marijuana on his estate near Lake Chelan, where he moved so his native Canadian wife could visit her family more easily.
Since mid-2013, Oberfelder has been a licensed marijuana grower, deemed worthy by the regulating Liquor Control Board, which also regulates alcohol sales. He paid the initial $1,000 required, filled out 140 pages of forms, and invested $100,000 to develop his farm, where he cultivated 600 marijuana plants over 15,000 square feet.
He also paid $20,000 for software and security mechanisms, and $10,000 for cameras to monitor the site. His plants met the required standards and biological characteristics, and had no contact with pesticides and other harmful chemicals such as glyphosate, which Colombia's Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria has thankfully banned here.
So as a duly licensed marijuana producer, Oberfelder began his little farm in July 2014, which has since earned him a perfectly legal $500,000.
His wife and another person work with him during regular periods, and he hires more hands at harvest time, he tells El Espectador. With this operation, the couple and their five children are earning a living, a very good one. Some of the children smoke joints occasionally, as do Oberfelder and his wife, twice a week. One of the sons has used marijuana to alleviate chronic ear pain, he says.
Obelfelder sells his produce to authorized processors at $6 a gram. They pack them and sell them to retailers, which are currently few in number but growing, given the improving market. And while the marijuana sold on the black market doesn't offer the quality guarantees of that sold in authorized stores, that market hasn't shrunk because its product is cheaper.
The marijuana market is definitely growing in the United States. There are constant television programs and fairs to promote it, and those states where it can be sold are raking in millions of dollars in related taxes. At the end of our conversation, I noted how hard this reality is for many to face in Colombia, where we have lost a lot of valuable people fighting this supposed US-led "war on drugs."
Calling the American drug policy of the past "bullshit," Obelfelder said he can understand that marijuana legalization is hard for Colombians to confront. "And it's sad," he added. "Why did Galán and Lara die? For nothing, just bullshit!"
A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.
BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.
Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.
The incident at the cemetery
They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."
There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.
It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.
The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
Crimes against Jews are rising
Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.
Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.
Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.
And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?
Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously
This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.
Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.
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