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If you do drugs, then probability is you’ve met at least one drug dealer in the course of your life style. In every town, in every city, in every empty rural region, somebody is slinging something. Of course, these people are demonized by the media, often portrayed as faceless poisoners of the young. In my own experience, they can actually be quite normal, if there really is such a thing, but they aren't that different from you and me. Everyone has a story. Dealers come from all walks of life, lured by the siren call of the hustle.
I interviewed two local drug dealers as part of my investigation into the tri-state criminal underground. We met up in a local bar called Just Jake’s. I will refer to them as Maniac and Bad-Gyal. After we ordered, Maniac set his eye to the shaky, uneven pool table to our left. I had chosen the furthest table, near the stage, people are nosy. Over a couple rounds of Jack and Coke, a few beers, and a plate of fish and chips, we discussed various aspects of the interview process, mostly assurances that the recordings of their voices would be subsequently deleted. Just as I reached for my recorder, the bar was suddenly completely packed. I looked up to greet friends, cousins of friends, their wives, and any number of suspicious persons possibly affiliated with law enforcement. I told Bad-Gyal I thought we should leave. She agreed. The three of us retreated to my home, and we got down to talking shop.
Potent: When and why did you begin hustling?
Bad-Gyal: When I was 20. To pay my student loans.
Maniac: I was young. I had a friend who was hustling and I was helping him. I was around 14.
What drugs do you sell? Have you ever broken one of the cardinal “Crack Commandments” and gotten high off your own supply?
Bad-Gyal: Yes, and mainly marijuana.
Maniac: Weed, coke, molly, pills. Yes to all.
Do you have any children? Do they know what you do? How do you separate family and drug dealing?
Maniac: Yes I have kids. No, they don’t know what I do. This is kind of a side hustle and In keep my hustle life separate from my family life by just not conducting business, period, when I’m with my family.
Bad-Gyal: No, I don’t have any kids. For the family, I just keep two separate cell phones.
Have you been to jail for drugs (possession, use, intent to sell)? How do you avoid the law? Do you have any connections in prison?
Bad-Gyal: No, I do not have any inside connections in prison. Yes, I have been arrested before. When you’ve been arrested, you learn a little bit more, you learn how to not have as many customers call you. Make sure that you have customers you’ve known for years that you trust, and try not to have too many new people. Basically you keep going, because in the criminal justice system, when you have a criminal record, what are you supposed to do? Nobody will hire you because you have a record, you kind of get stuck in the system. You’re going to do what you’ve got to do to survive. Period.
If you could have your record wiped completely clean, what sort of work would you do?
Bad-Gyal: Probably back to administrative assistant types of jobs. They usually hired me before I had a record. A lot of jobs in the past have slammed the door in my face because I have a record. So that’s what I would be doing, being an administrative assistant.
Is your record level a felony?
Bad-Gyal: Yes I have a felony.
What are your thoughts on marijuana legalization? If it is legalized, how would that affect your business?
Bad-Gyal: If it’s legalized… well I have a friend in Cali. He has a medical marijuana card, but he still buys from dealers because the dealers have no choice but to sell it for a cheaper price. Even it becomes legal, the change will come slowly and it won’t really affect me. If anything I will end up selling it legally, run my own shop.
About how much money do you make in a good week (from drugs alone)? How much in a bad week?
Bad-Gyal: A bad week is maybe a hundred, two hundred in a week. A good week, I get rid of about a QP (quarter pound) that would be like a thousand-something. Basically, since I’m trying not to sell to a lot of people, I’m just trying to make enough money to pay rent. So I don’t have to pay rent with my legal money.
So basically what you’re saying is that it’s like a decent paying job.
Bad-Gyal: Yeah like a decent paying job.
Maniac: Back in the day, when I was a lot more loose, I could make a thousand in a day because I was out there doing everything. Now in a good week, I make like a stack (1000) but that’s rare. On a bad week I make about a hundred.
Have you ever been in a situation where you were scared for your life? How do you cope with the stress of always being in danger of being arrested or possibly being retaliated against by a rival dealer?
Bad-Gyal: With arrests, as I’ve said, I make sure I stick to my friends for who I do business with. With getting robbed. I’ve been robbed at gunpoint, but usually I’m high at the time, so I’m usually pretty calm through the whole procedure. As long as they just come in and get out, take the stuff, and don’t do anything extra… like physical violence. I just know how to be calm about it…
Maniac: I’ve never gotten to the point where I was physically scared. As far as arrest goes. I just cross all my T’s and dot all my I’s. I make sure everything is on point BEFORE I go anywhere. That’s how I take care of that, I know I’m going to be good. I’ve never been robbed, I carry measures to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Some say selling weed is for amateurs or “lower level” drug dealers… do you agree?
Bad-Gyal: Yeah… Selling weed, yeah you can say it’s amateur, but it’s also safer. So it’s like a double edged sword. Yes, you can make more money selling the harder drugs, but when you get arrested for weed, if you only have a little bit on you, the cops will just throw it away. Especially in Newark. So it’s a double edged sword, I can’t really agree with that statement.
Maniac: It is what you make of it. If you play the game the right way, you can make just as much money off of bud as you can selling anything else. It’s just a matter of finding the right people to hustle to. But I do a little of everything… you know.
What is your favorite strain of weed?
Bad-Gyal: My favorite strain is the strongest I can find around New Jersey right now, Sour Diesel.
Sour Diesel is a monster!
Maniac: Honestly I don’t have a favorite strain, Sour Diesel is definitely in my top ten. I like a lot of different shit, so…
Tell me your wildest story about your life as a hustler.
Bad-Gyal: God… I guess it’s when I got robbed. It was actually me and my roommate got robbed. Someone came to the door, asked about buying a car from him. Then he just pushed him in at gunpoint, I didn’t understand what was going on. Then another man came in and pointed a gun to me, and told me to lay on the floor. Then he like, you know, tied up my hands behind my back and they did the same thing to my roommate. Then they just stole whatever they could find and bounced out. Other than getting arrested, which isn’t exciting at all, I guess getting robbed was the most exciting part of it.
Maniac: I’ve got two most exciting stories I guess. I have the negative one, which was when I was arrested. I had a QP in my hand. A couple ounces bagged up in my vehicle. Pills. Some money. They got me for everything, I spent three months in jail (as a minor). That shit sucked ass! But then you got the positive. I’ve gone out to fucking movie sets and shit and just been the connect out there, fucking chillin’ with people. I let them spend their money and they let help them to have fun with that shit.
The system is a dangerous double edged sword for people like Bad-Gyal and Maniac. How can politicians and officials sit and wonder why rates of recidivism are so high? We still live in an era where we brand people with an un-washable mark that ensures that they will be ostracized by corporate America and the government, denied employment wherever they seek it. Selling drugs isn’t glamorous or easy. Trying to become rich from it almost inevitably leads to a premature death, or incarceration in a tiny concrete box for years and years on end.
The gritty reality of the narcotics trade in this country is that the people who sell these narcotics do so because they are given no other choice. Their kids aren’t going to stop needing three meals a day. Their land lords are not going to stop asking for the rent. Let’s not fail to mention the hefty fines they incur and the confiscation of their own personal money by police when they are arrested, the government always gets a taste of that drug money. If you get caught with a joint and a thousand dollars, you just lost two thousand dollars, the money in your pocket plus a thousand for the court. Perhaps marijuana legalization can offer some of them a way out of this endless cycle of arrest and punitive taxation. None of this is to say I condone breaking the law, but when the law doesn’t work, and people find themselves back to the wall, the law will inevitably be broken.