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"I can make $2,000 a pound taking it across the country."
December 26, 2011 6:47 PM   Subscribe

The New Dealers : For some time, I'd been hearing stories from my sources in the interstate marijuana racket about law-abiding "civilians" turning to the game because of the recession, and so, armed with introductions, I hit the road to meet some of these unlikely criminals face to face. That's how, on a hot evening in June, I found myself in Dan's Northern California kitchen.
posted by desjardins (55 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Everytime I read about this shit, it depresses me so much. So much wasted money, time and energy, to accomplish absolutely nothing but destroying our civil rights.
posted by empath at 6:56 PM on December 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Cigarette smoking causes about 1 of every 5 deaths in the United States each year, that is over 450000 people. They have a right to smoke. Legalize and tax, the people in this article have nothing to be ashamed of, less than the liquor store or seven eleven employee. Dealing with the grey areas of the economy is risky and profitable. Prohibition guarantees the criminal element will have a never ending source of easy money.
BTW
posted by sensi63 at 7:04 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


As I understood it, if pot was legalized the prices and the profit would diminish? I thought that in a way, they make so much money because pot is a black market product.

I really hope they can find something that will give them peace of mind, however. I would be terrified if I had to deal pot for a living.
posted by Tarumba at 7:09 PM on December 26, 2011


This is a business that you want the brains of Stringer Bell and the insane luck of Nancy Botwin.
posted by jadepearl at 7:13 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ive got a much younger friend from Northern California. He is prone to exaggeration but I believe him mostly. He says most of the people he knows grows or deals in some way. After he went back for thanksgiving he said he spent most of his time at his friends grow operations packaging weed. He says he pays for cab rides and tips waitresses with what he calls "nugs". He says in certain parts of California people have more weed than money, and it gets bartered around like any other commodity.

I have even seen him do it here in New York, hand a bartender a perfect bud in a plain white envelope after a night of drinking. I've never seen anyone refuse it.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:13 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I used to pick up a fair number of hitchhikers when I lived in the mountains above Santa Cruz. Nearly all were local residents trying to get around in spite of the spotty bus schedule. About half offered me weed.

It's fair to say that for a lot of local subcultures, weed is a general purpose gratuity.
posted by ryanrs at 7:34 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's fair to say that for a lot of local subcultures, weed is a general purpose gratuity.

Gas, grass, or ass.
posted by hippybear at 7:35 PM on December 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


...nobody rides for free.

So sayeth the airbrush art on the back door of Hippybear's "fun van"
posted by Senor Cardgage at 7:39 PM on December 26, 2011 [12 favorites]


Once, I was standing outside a bar on Polk st. in San Francisco, having a cigarette, when a guy ran up and asked the group generally if he could bum a smoke. I was the first one to pull out my pack, and when I gave him a cigarette he pressed a small wad of paper into my hand. Inside was a lovely bud.
posted by rtha at 7:41 PM on December 26, 2011


Sadly, I seem to have a full tank all the time, but am never stoned and rarely get laid. :(

(Seriously, I don't own a van, and never get anything from hitchhikers I pick up other than perhaps a well-told tale or two. Although I did once get given 4 hits of quality blotter for BEING a hitchhiker, which was odd, but a lot of fun.)
posted by hippybear at 7:45 PM on December 26, 2011


Eh, The recession angle on this piece dings my skepticism alarm a little. (Not a lot.) It seems clear that the relaxation of the laws in Cali would widen the network, recession or no recession. How long has that showtime show been on? Seven years? It also seems like any former white collar, middle class person who got sucked into this would probably tell themselves, "Hey, I'm doing this because I had to do it, to feed my family" and not "Well, hell, $80G a year tax free ain't a bad way to make a living, and I've always kind of wanted to be a drug dealer."

Hard to get back in the straight world after a couple years out of it...I wonder what will become of these folks.
posted by Diablevert at 7:47 PM on December 26, 2011


Hard to get back in the straight world after a couple years out of it...

That's part of the secret doctrine of the Gay Recruitment Guide. Have you been peeking at forbidden literature? I'll send a squad over immediately to deal with you.
posted by hippybear at 7:51 PM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


never get anything from hitchhikers I pick up other than perhaps a well-told tale or two

Heh. Often I would pick up people while street racing on that twisty highway. I would see them in the distance, brake from 80-0, double-clutch downshifting all the way, roar to a stop right next to them, and swing open the door. Fun times.
posted by ryanrs at 7:55 PM on December 26, 2011


This is no news to anyone in Northern California. And the reason pot is illegal is . . . . what exactly?

Last year, Powell's boss, Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko, told the Wall Street Journal [10] that marijuana eradication (for which his department received almost $720,000 in federal support [11] this past year) is "where the money is."

Oh, yeah. Add to that the the growth in the prison industry, and you've got a lot of jobs dependent on keeping pot against the law. And when it came up to a vote to legalize it a couple of years ago, a lot of GROWERS were dead set against it. They didn't want to lose so much profit.

And what about one of the real problem drugs: methamphetamine? The cops are too busy busting pot growers and medical marijuana patients to bother with that much. I stopped smoking the crap over sixteen years ago, but ya know, the whole idea of keeping it as outlaw activity is just one more thing to verify the certifiably insane nature of our society these days.
posted by birdhaus at 8:01 PM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Dear Americans Who Support The War On Drugs:

This Sunday, when you're in church, look around. If you go to a big church, you'll see lots of people there. Most of them are good people. Flawed, but trying, like we all do. Maybe Jim over there helped fix your truck. Maybe Ellen watches your kids when you go out to eat on Friday night. I'll bet there are people there that you know from the business world. I'll bet most of them pay their bills. Some of them probably loaned you money.

Well guess what?

ALL OF THOSE PEOPLE SMOKE POT.

Every. Single. One.

Maybe they don't right now. Maybe they gave it up. But if they are under 65 years old, I'll bet money that they did.

Are these the criminals you're worried about? Is Jim a criminal? Is Ellen?

No. They aren't. You know that. Really, you do.

So let's change things, OK? It won't change anything, really. Jim will still be a good mechanic. Ellen will still be a responsible baby-sitter.

But now we won't waste money and resources and time and effort pursuing people WHO REALLY AREN'T CRIMINALS.

Think about it, please.

Love,

People Who Smoke Pot
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:13 PM on December 26, 2011 [31 favorites]


The honest darker side of California weed - by current TV's Vanguard
posted by Blasdelb at 8:47 PM on December 26, 2011


That's part of the secret doctrine of the Gay Recruitment Guide. Have you been peeking at forbidden literature? I'll send a squad over immediately to deal with you.

Sounds hot. Can I have a squad too?
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:59 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hard to get back in the straight world after a couple years out of it..

In my experience, the longer you spend out of it, the less you want back in.
posted by mannequito at 9:01 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


ALL OF THOSE PEOPLE SMOKE POT.

Every. Single. One.


Sorry but this isn't literally true. There's plenty of people I know, myself and my wife included, who have never done pot. For one thing, certain occupations just don't allow it. For another, the penalties are so severe that it hardly seems worth it.
posted by newdaddy at 9:03 PM on December 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


I'll send a squad over immediately to deal with you.

This would be an awesome reality show.
posted by desjardins at 9:06 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


You mean the recession has caused people to smuggle pot out of Northern California? This isn't knew, but I am glad more regular American's are doing it, better them than a harder core, organized crime outfit.

I think this is what overgrowing the government looks like.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 9:13 PM on December 26, 2011


Penalties for smoking weed are severe?? Where? Selling large amounts, yes. Trucking
Large amounts over state borders, yes. Smoking??? Where is it anything other than a minor misdemeanor?
posted by spicynuts at 9:13 PM on December 26, 2011


I'm starting to feel like I am turning into a conspiracy theorist or something, but the signs of social breakdown just seem like they are everywhere lately. I am starting to get really concerned. I'm not quite in "maybe I should buy a gun after all" territory yet but I'm not exactly optimistic about the future either. The US just seems fundamentally sick today.

(Note: not referring to the marijuana, which has changed my life for the better in dramatic fashion, but that people are pushed to doing something so insanely risky as interstate transport due to financial reasons.)
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:15 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


In my staid, somewhat conservative for this area, suburban neighborhood, of the eight households in immediate proximity to me, two grow marijuana for profit using marijuana cards. That's the ones I know of at least.
posted by diode at 9:32 PM on December 26, 2011


Spicynuts, for most people, having a criminal record counts as "severe".
posted by ryanrs at 10:27 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sorry but this isn't literally true.

Sure. But you're the exception that proves the rule.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:44 PM on December 26, 2011


Bitter: "Proves" in your aphorism means "Tests" as in "Proving Grounds" or "Fireproof" for "a place where things are tested" and "tested against fire" respectively. It does not suggest that exceptions lend support to a generalization, rather, that the exception is what tests the rule and implicitly causes it to fail.

I know this comes across as pedantic and petty but I fucking hate that expression and am on a personal jihad against its use to mean "Well the fact that my rule isn't always true means my rule is true".
posted by Grimgrin at 10:52 PM on December 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


Yeah, Grimgrin, you're right, but I'm a goddamn pothead and I don't have to play by your rules.

*dances naked*
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:44 PM on December 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


Alas, bitter, I think your rule has a lower age limit somewhere around 35 or so. This relates largely to the availability of drug testing, and its market penetration.
posted by Goofyy at 11:49 PM on December 26, 2011


I wonder how difficult it would be to Johnny Appleseed the stuff. Grow a field of it, let it go to seed, collect the seeds, mulch the rest. Do that for a few seasons in a row. Now you have multiple bags of seeds. Start driving around in semi-rural and rural areas. Every so often, toss a couple of seeds out of the window. Give bags of seeds to others to do the same.

The stuff is called "weed" for a reason. Make it the new Rhodes grass.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:58 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


there's a reason they call the bad stuff ditchweed
posted by mannequito at 12:38 AM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


aeschenkarnos: the results wouldn't really be smokeable. Making high quality weed takes serious work on each plant.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:48 AM on December 27, 2011


"Oh every seed I sow, will grow into a tree..."
posted by Meatbomb at 4:14 AM on December 27, 2011


Bitter: "Proves" in your aphorism means "Tests" as in "Proving Grounds" or "Fireproof" for "a place where things are tested" and "tested against fire" respectively. It does not suggest that exceptions lend support to a generalization, rather, that the exception is what tests the rule and implicitly causes it to fail.

Actually, you are both wrong. "The exception proves the rule" means that the existence of an exception proves that there is a rule to the contrary.

For example, you often see signs that say "no right turn on red". The fact that they had to have a sign for that means that there must normally be a rule that you MAY turn right on red. The exception (no turn THIS TIME) proves the rule (you may usually turn) exists.
posted by DU at 4:33 AM on December 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


I lived in Trinity County for some years; my father owns property up there. The area is ALWAYS economically depressed. There are few jobs outside of logging. I've not lived up there in the past ten years but I can tell you that for decades prior the locals have been growing garden plots of pot. It's understood that if it's just a "make the mortgage" amount of pot, the local police will NOT do anything about it - maybe a warning if one of the property owners got too showy with it. The story about "Dan" is so so very nothing new. The area is filled with Dan's and Ellen's and Jim's, etc., good people who have bills to pay and a grandmother with glaucoma.

It was usually only when a grow op was found on federal land that law enforcement got involved. (LOL And burned it at local lumber mill - town smelled like weed for days.) I did learn, as a teen, to avoid ANY forest area that happens to have garden hoses as it's a good way to get shot.

But, still, there is nothing new here. That area was the "Emerald Triangle" long before our current recession.
posted by _paegan_ at 5:35 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


One does not get a 'criminal record' for a misdemeanor. In some states, personal possession is nothing more than a fine.
posted by spicynuts at 6:07 AM on December 27, 2011


It doesn't matter if the result is smokable, lupus_yonderboy, just counteract the eradication efforts by law enforcement.

I personally liked the idea of genetically modifying other plants or bacteria to product THC.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:28 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just as jeffburdges says. The idea is to make it ubiquitous, so that the undiscerning consumer can collect enough from "ditchweed" (nice term) to make themselves something that would achieve the medical or free-beer level recreational intention, and the more fussier types can have an easily accessible wild source that they can take home to preen and potter over to satisfy their gourmet tastes.

Gift horses, counting teeth, etc. Although modifying human gut bacteria (or even better, an infectious virus) to excrete THC, DMT or whatever is a neat idea--aside from good old unintended consequences--it's not really available to a small group of dedicated activists to set in motion tomorrow, in the same way that seed dissemination and the ubiquitous ditchweed plan is available.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:05 AM on December 27, 2011


On further thought I am not sure that a virus as such would work. I don't know much about biochemistry. Infectious bacteria might. At least it would make the flu more entertaining.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:08 AM on December 27, 2011


I personally liked the idea of genetically modifying other plants or bacteria to product THC.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:28 AM on December 27 [1 favorite]


Wasn't there once a semi-serious attempt to crossbreed cannabis with hops? I wonder whatever became of that. The plants are related, and when the hops I grew for brewing this year started to flower, the little golden pairs of hairs made me damn nostalgic.
posted by werkzeuger at 7:30 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


spicynuts: "One does not get a 'criminal record' for a misdemeanor. In some states, personal possession is nothing more than a fine."

And in some states (like mine) you get to go to jail; not just for having pot, but for having a pipe as well.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:04 AM on December 27, 2011


One does not get a 'criminal record' for a misdemeanor. In some states, personal possession is nothing more than a fine.

Uh, what? You absolutely get a criminal record for conviction of a misdemeanor, at least in every state I've ever bothered to look into the criminal law in. In at least one state (Maryland) they technically classify every traffic offense as a misdemeanor, and anyone with the inclination can go find out about your traffic offenses.

In some states, certain levels of marijuana possession might not result in a misdemeanor conviction, but it's really dangerous to generalize from some "oh, it's a misdemeanor, I won't have a record" idea. You really need to look up your local laws to know exactly what the law is your jurisdiction. NORML tends to have accurate information on this.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:28 AM on December 27, 2011


In at least one state (Maryland) they technically classify every traffic offense as a misdemeanor, and anyone with the inclination can go find out about your traffic offenses.

I don't know about you, but I'm much more likely to be concerned over whether someone has a poor driving record than whether they enjoy the occasional pipe of tea. There's actually value in that information being public.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:09 AM on December 27, 2011


In at least one state (Maryland) they technically classify every traffic offense as a misdemeanor, and anyone with the inclination can go find out about your traffic offenses.

Same here in Wisconsin.
posted by desjardins at 9:26 AM on December 27, 2011


You can loose a security clearance for smoking weed. Stupid, silly, but around here, that is career-ending.
posted by QIbHom at 10:27 AM on December 27, 2011


One does not get a 'criminal record' for a misdemeanor. In some states, personal possession is nothing more than a fine.

Depending on how zealous the local law wants to be, simple possession of a joint can be bumped-up to "conspiracy to distribute", which is a felony. And, then, there are property forfeiture laws in many states that allow local police to take. for instance, your car, and sell it for profit...regardless of whether you are ever found guilty of anything, or even brought to trial.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:59 AM on December 27, 2011


Sorry but this isn't literally true. There's plenty of people I know, myself and my wife included, who have never done pot. For one thing, certain occupations just don't allow it. For another, the penalties are so severe that it hardly seems worth it.

I live in the South and I was in Best Buy the other day and there was a normal everyday ordinarily-dressed family looking over flat-screen TV sets. The dad was fairly reeking of the bud. What OldBitterPunk said may not be "literally true," but it's truer than you think. I smell weed on people here all the time -- and they aren't your garden-variety pothead stereotypes either.
posted by blucevalo at 11:30 AM on December 27, 2011


I don't think I even know what it smells like.
posted by desjardins at 5:49 PM on December 27, 2011


You have to figure out how you're going to do your plates.... he won't specify ... what he does to his license plates.

As a person who has never "done" anything to license plates, I wonder what he's talking about. Modifying the plates somehow? How? (Really, I'm just curious.)
posted by exphysicist345 at 6:06 PM on December 27, 2011


I don't have any inside info or anything like that, but they might be referring to swapping out of state plates as they go over borders in order to reduce the likelihood of being pulled over. I hear that police tend to target out of state plates frequently, but it could be urban legend for all I know.
posted by feloniousmonk at 6:16 PM on December 27, 2011


I hear that police tend to target out of state plates frequently, but it could be urban legend for all I know.

That's pretty much what I've heard, mostly because out-of-state people aren't going to want to come back for a court date so it's easy money for the cops to collect due to uncontested tickets.

Still, if you're obeying all traffic laws, there's nothing there for the cops to target no matter what plates you have on your vehicle.
posted by hippybear at 6:21 PM on December 27, 2011


I think people who smoke pot tend to overestimate how many people smoke pot. Just a general observation; most of the people I know wouldn't even consider it because it would threaten their earning potential with no real reward.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:39 PM on December 27, 2011


I think prevalence probably has a lot to do with the industry that you primarily associate with. Many companies I am familiar with in the tech industry (and I'm not talking about just valley start ups here, although they're included) would be seriously screwed if they ever drug tested their employees (well, they would if they actually were looking to fire people who failed at least). Much of the industry is located in states with decriminalization or medical regimes, as well, which obviously contributes.
posted by feloniousmonk at 7:57 PM on December 27, 2011


I think people who smoke pot tend to overestimate how many people smoke pot. Just a general observation; most of the people I know wouldn't even consider it because it would threaten their earning potential with no real reward.

Even the government thinks that over 60% of Americans between 24 and 30 have smoked marijuana, with between 35 and 40% annual prevalence (i.e. having used within the last year). By comparison, the annual prevalence for cigarette smoking is between 30% and 35% for the 24-30 age group.

The lifetime-marijuana-use prevalence for the entire adult population is at least 40%.
posted by vorfeed at 8:33 PM on December 27, 2011


in the tech industry would be seriously screwed if they ever drug tested their employees

Hehehe... reminds me of when HR announced to the software company I worked at that we were instituting random drug testing to lower our health insurance costs. With all the grumbling and scrambling among my co-workers, I'm surprised we didn't have a riot; from what I knew, the entire sales staff was on coke and the entire web department plus a few of the engineers were definitely pot-heads. Within three hours, company president (who spent a lot of time with the sales staff *wink wink nudge nudge*) nixed the drug testing.
posted by _paegan_ at 10:34 AM on December 28, 2011


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