Pubdate: Wed, 11 Apr 2012
Source: Arizona Daily Wildcat (AZ Edu)
Copyright: 2012 Arizona Daily Wildcat
Author: Greg Gonzales


 From financial investments to lavish spring break trips, three drug
dealers' experiences as independent businessmen

Spending the past few months with drug dealers has been oddly
uninspiring. The life of a drug dealer isn't an everlasting party. But
all drug dealers have two desires in common: easy money and personal

Like a new business owner on crack, drug dealers face risks people
can't possibly understand without personal experience. If the dealer
conducts himself well and quits while he's ahead, he might avoid the
law or getting stabbed in the gut. Other dealers stick with it too
long, and eventually screw up, usually falling into debt or onto the
hood of a police car. But there are many kinds of drug dealers, all of
whom have varying levels of success. Here are the stories of three
drug dealers I got to know during the past three months.

Hit it and quit it

Some drug dealers get caught and serve time. Other drug dealers leave
the business before they get in trouble. A happy member of the latter
group is Jake, an infantry Marine.

Jake, who declined to be identified by full name, was a drug dealer in
high school, from the time he was 15 to 19 years old. He sold cocaine,
medical-grade marijuana, prescription painkillers and other pills.
After four years of making as much as $2,500 each month, Jake saved up
several thousand dollars.

Jake said it all started with his first time buying weed: "I bought a
nug of marijuana and flipped it double to someone else for what I paid
for it," he said. "I figured, 'Hey, I can use this shit to make money.'"

Jake also tried the drugs he sold in order to make sure he wasn't
selling anything bad.

"I wouldn't sell (a drug) without knowing what it did," he

Drug dealers aren't very averse to risk. In addition to the dangers of
using some drugs, dealing comes with personal risks. Past the legal
ramifications, the trade is by nature a lawless one, where one dealer
might screw over or kill the competition -- or even his own customers
- -- so the idea can seem daunting.

Just consider the risk of transporting an illegal product. On a drive
up to Phoenix with a kilo of cocaine, Jake had a somewhat close call
with the Border Patrol. He was pulled over, but the dogs weren't
called to his truck, so he didn't get caught. Good luck is a precious
commodity in dealing.

Most of Jake's customers never knew his name.

"You had to watch your back and watch your buddy's back," Jake said.
"Someone could be watching you."

In order to avoid suspicion, Jake never used his drug dealing money to
make huge purchases -- a small trip, food, a couple of college classes
and some small investments. He also had another thing going for him.

"Coming from a wealthy family, I was kind of expected to have a decent
amount of cash on me at all times," he said. "I always put it on that.
I never said it was from a secondary income."

His family never found out. And he never let his friends get involved,
for his sake and theirs, Jake said.

Eventually, Jake got tired of drug dealing and started looking to the

"I realized that the lifestyle would soon catch up with me. All good
things come to an end, right?" he said. "When you're in that kind of
work, it's always going to come to a bad end, unless you come out
while you're ahead. So I made the choice to get out while I was ahead
and not get caught up in it."

Jake is shipping out to Afghanistan this year. Once he returns, he'll
be greeted by family, friends and several thousand dollars in savings
and investments.

Dorm dealing

College kids like to experiment, but unless a student meets a friend
of a friend, it's usually difficult to find a consistent drug dealer.
This is where the dorm dealers come in.

Grant Hull, an anthropology senior, sold small amounts of marijuana
from his dorm room during his freshman year.

Unlike Jake, Grant was already smoking marijuana on a daily basis
before he began to sell it. However, it was just as easy for him to
get started as a drug dealer.

"I started with a few of my friends," Grant said. "One day we decided
- -- we knew this kid who could get us ounces -- so we just went over
and got one."

While Grant liked the quick cash, his friends weren't the dealing

"We sold the first ounce together, but they weren't really into it so
much," Grant said. "I just knew people who bought weed and smoked
weed, so I told them that if they needed any to just come to my room."

According to Grant, the dorm dealing scene was pretty relaxed. For the
most part, he said, Grant kept his business between friends and fellow
dorm-dwellers. All he had to do to stay safe was keep the door locked.

"That way, if I was in class or something, people would know (to go
down the hall) and be like, 'Hey, can I get a gram?'" Grant said.

For the most part, his plan worked. Unlike more reckless dealers,
Grant never ended up in the Daily Wildcat's Police Beat section.
Instead, he ended up with approximately $100 to $200 a week and a
well-funded spring break.

"That's why I don't really have (the money) anymore," Grant said.
"Just buying stupid shit like clothes, more weed. I was pretty
irresponsible with it."

Grant wasn't running a $10,000 operation. He said the only worry he
had was being ratted out by someone, which is something that every
dealer I talked to admitted was a concern. Still, even though he was a
small-time dorm dealer, Grant ran into a problem that ultimately ended
his business when he ran out of weed and found that the frat guy who
normally sold to him had also run out. A friend of his offered to
front him some, which this new dealer had no right to do in the first

"It wasn't his (the dealer's), it was his friend's, who was also a
dealer," Grant said. "So (his friend) got pissed at me and there was
this misunderstanding."

Grant ended up owing money and decided to quit because it was near the
end of the school year. "I was like, 'Fuck it,'" he said. "It would
have been a pain in the ass to get another ounce and start the process

But that was his freshman year. During his sophomore year, Grant
started selling from an apartment. However, he quit for the "final"
time when he gave up smoking marijuana. Of course, like anyone who
truly loves weed, he started smoking again. But his dealing life was

At the same time, other dorm dealers picked up the slack. "I'd say for
any dorm, there's probably at least one or two kids (selling weed),"
Grant said. "When I did, there were at least three or four other guys
I knew in the dorms -- at my dorm, at least -- who were doing it at
any given time."

No matter what, there will always be a place for students of all
backgrounds to get their weed. Not all explorers of the mind --
psychonauts -- are students, though. According to the 2010 National
Survey on Drug Use and Health, at least 22 million people in the
United States use illegal drugs. So where do the non-students get
their drugs?

Wheeler dealer: Sticking with it

Ordering pizza is pretty awesome: Suddenly, pizza magically arrives at
the door to cure cravings for a small price. Some drug dealers do the
same thing, except with a pharmacopeia of drugs. This deliveryman is
Tom Ado. Yes, he requested a name inspired by "Pokemon."

He's certainly not your typical shady street dealer, who sits on the
corner selling bags of oregano. He's not one of those rave people who
sells pills. He's not a kingpin. He's something in between it all, and
he loves his job.

"Even cash-broke, I've found that (drug dealing) is what makes me
happy," Tom said. "It's based on passion. It keeps me moving forward."

Tom doesn't even consider dealing to be a job.

"I would call it a means to a means," Tom said. "I'm fundraising aE&
for legal enterprises I'll have in the future, such as opening a local
head shop, or becoming a wholesale distributor of glassware."

If you haven't guessed by now, Tom really loves weed.

In fact, sharing his love of weed is what got him into the business.
Before a Thanksgiving feast last year, Tom smoked in California with
his cousin, who is connected to Los Angeles' medical marijuana scene
through friends and a medical card. Just three months later, Tom
started transporting high-grade marijuana from California to feed the
hungry smokers in Tucson.

"I was with my cousin and we were discussing our passions," Tom said.
"He explained to me that there is a way, if you're willing to be
self-motivated and work for yourself -- which isn't just all freedom,
it's a lot of responsibility -- you're able to make a lot of money and
you're able to be in control of all the aspects of your

The autonomy, Tom said, was one of the reasons the job appealed to him
so much.

Despite his passion, Tom isn't making much profit. He ended up owing
his cousin quite a bit of dough: $3,500. On average, he only makes $70
a week, though business seems to be picking up.

Tom's been expanding his sales to other drugs. He extracts lysergic
acid-amide, or LSA, from morning glory seeds. Tom also sells LSD,
psilocybin mushrooms, MDMA and even the most powerful psychedelic in
the world: dimethyltryptamine, a drug naturally found in a vast number
of organisms, including human beings.

Like Jake, Tom also tries the drugs he sells. While he mostly trips
for his own enjoyment, trying every drug allows him to test the purity
of the product and gives him a better idea of how to market the drugs'
effects to potential buyers.

"This is an industry that doesn't have regulations for what you can do
to your customers or to your product," Tom said. "It's very important
that people in this business follow sound business practice, as well
as a few other precautionary rules. Otherwise, it could turn into
something more dangerous or hazardous, which you'll see with crappy
drug dealers."

But Tom's no used car salesman.He believes that a drug deal is only as
shady as the seller and buyer make it and that a typical sale is just
like "meeting someone for coffee or tea." He drives up to the house,
or the buyer comes to him, and the two have a good conversation over a
smoldering bowl of weed. But Tom still keeps it professional. "I'm not
going to keep you up all night chit-chatting," he said.

No violence, no paranoia, no problems.

Unlike Jake and Grant, Tom plans to continue dealing for a while. He
said that eventually, he'll open up a smoke shop and have other people
deal for him while he just skims off the top.

And as long as Arizona's medical marijuana program stays in place, he
shouldn't have a problem finding people to buy from. With a medical
card, he will trade different kinds of marijuana at pot clubs, where
patients and caregivers meet to share their various kinds of medicine.

"My hope is that we can all become licensed to carry all of these
heavily regulated narcotics," Tom said, "so that this isn't a legal
issue anymore."

What it all means

If anything really seems taboo here, it's probably that the products
in question are illegal. Just imagine if the dealers were selling
roses or caviar. Would anybody question it?

Selling a product people want is an attractive job. Like a business
owner, the dealer manages his own finances, can choose his customers
and partners and has full control over his operation. This comes with
a certain set of skills and character traits that are similar to those
of entrepreneurs.

In fact, according to a study by the University of California, Santa
Cruz, drug dealers are 11 to 21 percent more likely to choose
self-employment than non-drug dealers. Some of the traits described in
the study are the ones Tom expressed: a yearning for autonomy, low
aversion to risk and a dislike for working under people.

The study also found that basic job skills and an education had either
little or a negative effect on the likelihood of an individual
becoming self-employed. So perhaps drug dealing is good training for
future business endeavors. Maybe not the safest training, but training
all the same.

A National Business Incubation Association study found that 80 percent
of businesses fail during the first five years. And the UC study
mentioned that drug dealers may lack the knowledge of business
opportunities and financial capital needed to be successful -- or even
get started -- in business.

So maybe business students make the best dealers.

I'm not advising drug dealing as a profession. It's a truly dangerous
job, and every drug dealer I met has had some pretty bad experiences,
both financially and personally. However, some dealers find that the
danger is worth the money, autonomy and enjoyment they get from the
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt