Pubdate: Sat, 31 Mar 2001
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2001 Houston Chronicle
Author: Thom Marshall


A co-worker asked me recently where he could score some drugs.

He doesn't actually use any illegal substances, as far as I know. Very few 
of us in the age bracket of 50-64 do use them -- only 1.7 percent, 
according to 1999 estimates from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health 
Services Administration, or SAMHSA.

It was just his way of jiving me about the amount of time I've spent over 
the past several months trying to understand the drug war, and about the 
number of words I've written on drug-related issues.

I said that since I don't buy them myself, I couldn't tell him precisely 
where to get them.

Said I have heard from many people who have been busted for drugs and I 
could ask one of them, but did he really want information from someone who 
got caught.

In the hit movie Traffic, the boyfriend of the daughter of the incoming 
drug czar had some strong lines about white people going into black 
neighborhoods and asking anyone they happen to see where they can buy 
drugs, and how inappropriate and rude such behavior is.

A lawyer I know suggested that some night we cruise around a neighborhood 
some of his clients told him about, stop and talk to someone on the street, 
then see how fast we get pulled over by police.

He's willing to wager and give odds that a couple of middle-aged white guys 
cruising around that neighborhood in the late hours would, indeed, be stopped.

Pot's Popular With Drug Users

One fellow told me that on a night shortly after moving back to Houston 
after living in Mexico, where he had acquired a drug habit, he went into a 
neighborhood close to downtown, asked a man on the street and soon made a 
buy. Said he chose that area because if the cops happened along, he stood a 
good chance of losing them in the downtown traffic.

A couple of policemen who e-mailed recently expressed their opinions that 
people who buy drugs also are guilty of stealing the money and guilty of 
contributing to the violent lifestyles of their dealers.

In 1999, an estimated 14.8 million Americans were illicit drug users, 
according to SAMHSA -- a number equal to 6.7 percent of the population age 
12 and older. Some 57 percent of these users consumed only marijuana.

A few of them get their grass from a man I visited with recently.

He described himself as "40ish, divorced, well-read, reasonably 
intelligent, a native Houstonian, gainfully employed, middle class," and 
said he has "a multitude of wonderful friends" who also are his customers.

Mostly professionals and business owners, he said, they buy their marijuana 
from him because they trust him and because he knows where to get it and 
they don't.

He said he doesn't use or sell any other illegal substances and has never 
been busted in 18 years of dealing and using marijuana.

His personal pot consumption rate is less than his customers', he said. He 
sometimes goes weeks between tokes. Said he was 22 before he tried it the 
first time, although he was around it a lot before that.

Friendly Neighborhood Dealer

Back when he was going to high school, tobacco use was tolerated to the 
point there was a student smoking area on campus. This fellow said that 
someone often fired up a joint in the school smoking area, but when it was 
passed to him, he would simply pass it along without trying it.

Since he limits his dealing to friends he said his volume is small and 
likewise his profits -- maybe $200 in an average week. "They have to ask 
me," he said. "I'm not standing on a street corner pushing anything."

The heaviest user among his friend-customers is a business owner who uses 
about three-quarters of an ounce per week -- a tightly wound fellow who 
smokes marijuana a few times a day to combat stress and tension.

Such a person might otherwise turn to a prescription drug, said the grass 
merchant, who believes his merchandise is superior when measured against 
the potential side effects and withdrawal symptoms of many medications.

"I'm doing something illegal," the dealer admitted in the first half of a 
sentence, "but I'm not doing anything wrong," he contended in the last half.

In 1999, some 704,800 people were arrested on marijuana charges, according 
to the U.S. Department of Justice.
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