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As Americans Legalize Marijuana, Colombians Mourn Drug War Victims

Jeff Oberfelder and his estate near Lake Chelan
Jeff Oberfelder and his estate near Lake Chelan
Patricia Lara Salive


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!"

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Smaller Allies Matter: Afghanistan Offers Hard Lessons For Ukraine's Future

Despite controversies at home, Nordic countries were heavily involved in the NATO-led war in Afghanistan. As the Ukraine war grinds on, lessons from that conflict are more relevant than ever.

Photo of Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Johannes Jauhiainen


HELSINKI — In May 2021, the Taliban took back power in Afghanistan after 20 years of international presence, astronomical sums of development aid and casualties on all warring sides.

As Kabul fell, a chaotic evacuation prompted comparisons to the fall of Saigon — and most of the attention was on the U.S., which had led the original war to unseat the Taliban after 9/11 and remained by far the largest foreign force on the ground. Yet, the fall of Kabul was also a tumultuous and troubling experience for a number of other smaller foreign countries who had been presented for years in Afghanistan.

In an interview at the time, Antti Kaikkonen, the Finnish Minister of Defense, tried to explain what went wrong during the evacuation.

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“Originally we anticipated that the smaller countries would withdraw before the Americans. Then it became clear that getting people to the airport had become more difficult," Kaikkonen said. "So we decided last night to bring home our last soldiers who were helping with the evacuation.”

During the 20-year-long Afghan war, the foreign troop presence included many countries:Finland committed around 2,500 soldiers,Sweden 8,000,Denmark 12,000 and Norway 9,000. And in the nearly two years since the end of the war, Finland,Belgium and theNetherlands have commissioned investigations into their engagements in Afghanistan.

As the number of fragile or failed states around the world increases, it’s important to understand how to best organize international development aid and the security of such countries. Twenty years of international engagement in Afghanistan offers valuable lessons.

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