July 2022. Hasenheide in Berlin-Neukölln. A large, green park with a petting zoo, an open-air cinema, a dog-walking area, an arboretum, a monument to the women who allegedly rebuilt Germany after World War II (which is a myth), a rose garden, a mini-golf course, a snack bar that doesn’t offer currywurst but is desperately seeking employees, the first gymnastics field created by the famous Friedrich Ludwig Jahn personally in 1811, and the Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple, the completion of which is taking even longer than that of the infamous Berlin airport.
Where the paths and trails intersect, men are standing around in a conspicuously inconspicuous manner. Sometimes one, sometimes two, sometimes three. From time to time, one of them disappears into the bushes and buries something or digs something up. Like a squirrel.
I usually assume the best in people and would therefore like to think that the men are looking for a lost cat. Or collecting signatures for one of the many referendums in Berlin. (The one with the universal basic income would suit me very well.) Or philosophizing about the oxymoronic nature of illiberal democracies, while enjoying the fresh air.
But since they don’t even attempt to strike up a conversation with me, a recognizably referendum-signing-willing cat lover who is an enthusiastic philosopher, I have to cast off the Rawlsian veil of ignorance, look cruel reality into the eye and realize that these men are probably selling substances that the legislature, which is meeting only a few kilometers away – if they weren’t on summer recess already – has relegated to annex I of section 1 paragraph 1 of the Narcotics Act and thus to illegality.
Almost nowhere in the world am I being bothered by dope dealers, marijuana merchants and opium offers, which is probably due to me looking rather decent and law-abiding, not to say boring. Hence, people are always surprised when they hear about all my adventures. Probably, most drug consumers have more bourgeois lives than me. Some of them might even have a mortgage. Or iron their shirts.
One evening, I interrupt my sauntering and sit down on a bench for a break, when I unexpectedly overhear snippets of conversation from the group on the next bench, about 10 meters away.
Initially, I deem them to be consumers of the aforementioned dietary supplement, but apparently, it is local knowledge that they are also active in the production, or at least the distribution thereof.
Three youngsters walk past, then take heart or whatever organ controls addiction, turn around and ask the three gentlemen, a lady and a dog if it was at all possible to purchase some “weed” from them. A cleverly chosen code word, I think appreciatively. After all, the park is called “Hasenheide”, which means “Rabbits’ Heath”, so the FBI surveillance satellite won’t think of anything suspicious when it hears the word “weed”, but merely of cute little bunnies.
“No way,” one of the men on the bench says, “we ain’t sellin’ nothing to no kids.”
“We are not kids,” retorts one of the juveniles, “we are teenagers”.
“Law says you’re a kid ’til you turn 18,” explains the man on the bench. “And when you facin’ the judge, it makes a huge difference if you sold to an adult or a kid.”
He seems to speak from personal experience with the justice system, although that does not prevent him from continuing with his small business.
“Kids always rat on you,” says one of the other men on the bench.
“And when word gets out that we are selling to kids, the park will soon be full of police again”, adds the third man. It sounds like he enjoys the park much more without any law enforcement present.
“Don’t you have an older brother?” asks the woman from the quartet on the bench. Apparently not.
Unfortunately, I don’t catch the whole conversation, but the teenagers probably claim that they are adults already or close to it, because the drug dealers reply, sternly: “Then let’s see your ID cards!”
At least one of them is so close to his 18th birthday that the drug cartel is getting soft. The dealers even roll the joints for the kids, because they suspect that the boys would never be able to do it so neatly.
I can’t tell whether they concluded a sale or whether it was an early birthday gift. In any case, the dealers insist that the teenagers consume the herbal product on the spot. Under adult supervision, so to speak. In case one of the boys gets sick.
I guess the kids didn’t imagine their first drug experience to be so uncool. They whisper and giggle coyly while puffing.
Meanwhile, the drug dealers criticize the German government for being so slow with sending tanks to Ukraine: “Worst part is, even if they wanted to provide the tanks faster, they couldn’t. Coz you gotta involve 15 agencies, and every paper needs to be issued five times and signed and stamped by every Tom, Dick and Harry.” And all of that despite Ukraine being an adult.
Although I am listening as inconspicuously as I can, one of the drug dealers saunters over to me on a reconnaissance mission and then back to his buddies. It probably bothers them that I am smoking a cigar, and they fear that I might poach their customers with this refined tobacco product.
The greater threat to their business, however, looms from the legalization which the German government has announced. A few weeks ago, the “International Cannabis Business Conference” was held in Berlin, where pharmaceutical companies, law firms and management consultants jostled for market share. I guess the people there have fewer moral scruples than the nice folks in the park.
Instead of Hashish Heath, I now usually go to some of the beautiful cemeteries in the neighborhood. The drug dealers don’t go there. I guess that too would violate their honor code.