Skip

I Went To Law School and Became A Drug Dealer
January 20, 2014 7:08 AM   Subscribe

This response to the question, "What's it like to be a drug dealer?" goes into how the anonymous author became a drug dealer while in college. (Business Insider via Quora)
posted by reenum (48 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
In a single word, being a drug dealer was exhilarating. Immense rewards, more than I realized at the time, but also unbelievable stress, unavoidable paranoia, and most difficult of all, an existence in a world that does not ‘exist’ by traditional standards.

Drug dealer until graduation.
posted by three blind mice at 7:13 AM on January 20 [4 favorites]




I guess because it's Business Insider, it focuses almost entirely on the transactions, but I found this article weirdly impersonal and short on human detail.
posted by xingcat at 7:18 AM on January 20


After some time, I was fortunate enough to land an excellent position at a startup in LA that suits my personality perfectly.

*shiver*
posted by Zarkonnen at 7:21 AM on January 20 [10 favorites]


Herbalife?
posted by 7segment at 7:27 AM on January 20 [8 favorites]


...but I found this article weirdly impersonal and short on human detail.

I actually liked that part. The drug-dealer narratives you get in the media on a general basis are either "here's all the craaaaazy stuff we did with our loads of drug money" and "here's all the violence and politics and personal problems that upended everything," but it's pretty rare that you actually hear about the mechanics of the job, in this sort of sparse but still technical detail. This wouldn't have been half as interesting if it it was padded with reminiscing about law school coke parties and half-remembered interactions with low-level cartel goons.
posted by griphus at 7:28 AM on January 20 [7 favorites]


Fascinating. I wish that Business Insider had done a little editing, though.
posted by bunderful at 7:32 AM on January 20 [4 favorites]


I can't be the only person who clicked this thinking, "I wonder if his student loan debt is paid off now."
posted by blue suede stockings at 7:36 AM on January 20 [8 favorites]


When I was in Central America, I met a guy from the midwest who had run a pot smuggling operation through a chain of antique stores that he ran as a front. The stories he told me were pretty similar. He also dealt with Mexican cartels in Texas. He got caught and served time, though.

I was mostly fascinated that he managed to live in Latin America with a local girlfriend and ran a multi-million dollar operation with Mexican cartels and didn't speak a word of Spanish.
posted by empath at 7:37 AM on January 20 [3 favorites]


And my personal wtf am I doing epiphany when I was involved in that sort of business was when I was walking through south east dc at 3am by myself carrying $1500 and a bunch of pills in my pocket after a rave I went to got shut down by the police. The money was definitely not worth the risk.
posted by empath at 7:40 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]


A graduate student in my program was caught dealing heroin; after he got out of prison he actually went back and finished his degree. I guess it's true: some people just get institutionalized.
posted by logicpunk at 8:07 AM on January 20 [10 favorites]


When I was in Central America, I met a guy from the midwest who had run a pot smuggling operation through a chain of antique stores that he ran as a front.

I am a pretty easy-going fellow, and beyond the occasional flagrant jaywalking and a few months of enthusiastic shoplifting as a teenager, I have tended to live my life inside the bounds of the law. I am always fascinated by the business of fronts and money-laundering, though. A block away from my old apartment is a storefront that has changed about four times in ten years: it is currently a hair salon, but it spent three years as a place that sold range hoods. You know, those giant hollow pyramid-looking things above a range top for ventilation? Yeah, those. It was open seven days a week, sixteen hours a day, and never in my sight had a single customer pass its doors. I am sure it must have been a front for something.

On a related note, a friend of mine worked as a taxi driver in Montreal for years and noted early on in his career that if you drive a taxi overnight in a big city, you see where all the prostitutes go and where all the drugs go. He was an affable guy (some would say chatty) and got to know a lot of the call girls he was driving to various hotels. Eventually the character running one of the escort services got sent to jail for living off the avails so my buddy decided to fill the niche and took over the business or, I suppose, technically poached a bunch of the other defunct agency's employees.

He ran that for a couple of years before he got out of the business but was a fascinating insight into a world of which I know nothing. I asked him once about how such businesses advertise -- is it really just the skeezy ads in the backs of tabloid newspapers? I said that seemed a hard way to get repeat customers if everyone starts from zero again each time. "No," he said, "we have business cards."

I was shocked. "Business cards? Isn't that a little brazen? Aren't you courting prosecution?"

He said, "Well, here is one." I had a look at it. It appeared to be a card for a locksmith. I then realized it was a tiny roman à clef. The locksmith part was a suggestive image, the logo showed a key entering a lock, nudge nudge, and all of the bullet point details -- fast, friendly 24 hour service, foreign makes a specialty, competitive rates -- all applied to the business he was running.

I asked, "Do you ever get calls from someone actually looking for a genuine locksmith?"

He said, "Yeah, maybe once every few months. When that happens, I say, 'Oh, you must have found one of my dad's old business cards. Unfortunately he passed away last year. But I will give you a number you can call...'" at which point he would direct them to a genuine locksmith.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:10 AM on January 20 [62 favorites]


It never says he went to law school except for the title. He says he WANTED to go to law school and that he'd worked at a law firm. It never once references anything except college.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:12 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]


Are you saying you don't trust a drug-dealing lawyer?
posted by yerfatma at 8:32 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]


It never says he went to law school except for the title. He says he WANTED to go to law school and that he'd worked at a law firm. It never once references anything except college.

He also said they moved some ~5lbs a week out of the law school mail room at one point, which they apparently used instead of shipping that much weed to their apartment all the time. Pretty ingenious set-up actually, but still not "going to" law school.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:35 AM on January 20


Is it safe to assume this is what it's like to be a white, middle class drug dealer? Seems a safe assumption given the discusison of locations and Ivy League schools. Nothing wrong with that point of view, I'm grateful to read the experience, but just trying to put this in a context.

The little bit about their hired driver being put in prison and "My only regret is that we were confident enough to put everything we had into the deal." is a sort of astonishing lack of empathy. OTOH it's the drug business, one assumes the driver knew the risk.

Is moving $100,000 in cash across the US really this difficult? He talks about flying with money strapped to his body, or else shipping boxes hoping they arrive at the other end. I know moving more than $10,000 across the border is a big deal, as is depositing that large a sum into a bank account. But is it that hard getting it from California to Texas?
posted by Nelson at 8:48 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]


Is moving $100,000 in cash across the US really this difficult?

In 2014, without having any documentation for it whatsoever? Yeah. If you're found with that much cash on you by anyone in authority, they're going to ask questions and if you can't account for it in some way (and sometimes even if you can) you are fucked.
posted by griphus at 8:53 AM on January 20


I have to admit I am kind of skeptical of the idea that anyone intelligent would ever go through a TSA checkpoint with large amounts of cash strapped to their body.
posted by threeants at 8:55 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]


It honestly sounds like he wrote this whole story while on coke.
posted by discopolo at 9:02 AM on January 20 [4 favorites]


I remember a day from my youth, walking down 16th Street in DC to meet a friend at a hotel, carrying a grocery bag in each hand, each filled with a quarter pound. Good times.
posted by slogger at 9:03 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]


I remember a day from my youth, walking down 16th Street in DC to meet a friend at a hotel, carrying a grocery bag in each hand, each filled with a quarter pound. Good times.

Nino Brown over here...
posted by hal_c_on at 9:16 AM on January 20


In general, if the authorities find you with more than a few grand in cash you can pretty much assume they're going to ask unpleasant questions. There is almost no legitimate reason for most people to have that much cash all at once. Even if it isn't money laundering, it could easily be tax evasion.
posted by valkyryn at 9:19 AM on January 20


There is almost no legitimate reason for most people to have that much cash all at once. Even if it isn't money laundering, it could easily be tax evasion.

Taken - Under civil forfeiture, Americans who haven’t been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes. Is that all we’re losing?

ACLU: Asset Forfeiture Abuse
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:24 AM on January 20 [4 favorites]


And even if you have a valid reason for it, they'll still take it.
posted by empath at 9:25 AM on January 20 [4 favorites]


I have to admit I am kind of skeptical of the idea that anyone intelligent would ever go through a TSA checkpoint with large amounts of cash strapped to their body.

This account has to be at least several years old, anything strapped to your body would immediately show up on the Nudiscans they use now, and the only way to bypass those is to submit to a pat-down.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:37 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]


The use of law school mailrooms pisses me off. I'm sure law enforcement would have found some way to retaliate against the school, had they been caught (although a law school probably could have defended itself), and they could have easily gotten the other students in trouble. There's a special hell for this kind of behavior right next to the special hell for people who set up pot plantations on public lands.

Stashing dirty money at his parents' house also does not endear him to me - they could have lost their house.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:51 AM on January 20


Glad he found something to do that's more reputable.
posted by ocschwar at 9:51 AM on January 20


i keep thinking one day quora is going to be huge (and tapestry), they're the two sites i don't think make as big a splash as logically they should, thanks for sending me back there
posted by maiamaia at 10:13 AM on January 20




There is almost no legitimate reason for most people to have that much cash all at once.

I'm curious whether or not law enforcement by and large retains some capacity for recognizing and dealing fairly with the "almost."

Curious, but not especially confident.
posted by weston at 10:40 AM on January 20


I've read this before — maybe it was part of that best of Quora post that went up a couple weeks ago.

At any rate, since the statute of limitations has run out, for a couple years between high school and college, I worked at Kinko's overnight and largely supported myself by selling weed with my roommate. We'd sell about a pound a week, and make a decent amount of money on it.

There were some differences — I don't think anyone ever fronted us more than a quarter ounce; we had to pay cash up front. We never got caught, though my roommate had been busted once before (and actually had to go through the criminal process, since he had vicodin on him). And the idea that it's impossible to get out? That's bullshit. It's really easy to get out of the drug business — you just stop buying in bulk and introduce your best customer to your connection.

I liked it for a while — I got into it mainly because the best way to get free weed is to buy in quantity, then increase the price to cover your supply — but after a while, it became too much like a customer service job, except I didn't like most of the customers and the hours were terrible.

There was no interstate bullshit for us — our connection was a guy who was a waystation for drugs on the trip from Canada to Chicago, and he was a paranoid asshole. I never met him in person, though I talked to him on the phone. Every time we picked up, I'd wait in the car, parked two blocks away, while my roomie walked to his house with a backpack full of cash, then came back with a pound in a backpack.

We were in a college town, so it was easy enough to find buyers, but they were mostly a pain in the ass. We could sell $35 eighths all day, but that meant selling $35 eighths all day. It was the most profit, but breaking it up, carting it around, and dealing with the tortuously slow process of getting a stoner to just give you the money and take the weed was incredibly frustrating. I just wanted to be as professional as possible, and instead it was always fucking chitchat time.

And people knowing we were dealers meant folks always wanted to buy a "dime bag," which was even more a pain in the ass, since it was always some subjective amount and dickering and then you'd have sell off the rest of that eighth also in dimes (or smoke it as a loss).

For a while, we were the suppliers through all the campus bookstores, and that meant a steady volume, but like he mentions, that meant that the summers were more skint. Luckily, we had enough students staying over that we could keep supplying them.

But as time went on, it was easier to move more and more volume, and we had folks picking up a half pound a week from us, which we encouraged as much as possible by volume pricing. We'd get our pound for between $1800 and $2000, for quality Canadian commercial, and the best days were when we could just turn around and sell that same pound for $3000. Otherwise, $1550 for a half; $800 for a QP; $220 for an ounce; $120 for a half ounce; $65 for a quarter ounce; $35 eighth. The high quality "kind bud" (usually Northern Lights) went for roughly twice that much, but I don't think we ever sold more than an ounce of that at a time. All of this is in 1999/2000 money.

Getting rid of the volume saved us both risk and labor — both the legal risk of getting busted, and the inventory risk of having the weed go too dry before we could sell all the eighths. (My roommate did have a fantastic way of upselling cheaper weed — occasionally we'd get a brick of ditch weed for $1000, and we'd soak it in warm water on the stove to let all the crud come out of it, then dry it above a radiator, which would puff it back up. Looked even better than the regular commercial weed.) But it was still a pain in the ass, and relied on shit like the cash flow of local delivery drivers.

Even better than weed was ecstasy and LSD, both of which could be flipped immediately for double the purchase price, but the connections on that were always fickle. We'd be flush one weekend, then the next we'd have nothing — our guy for the weed had it sometimes, but he had fairly exorbitant prices and no volume discount like there was with weed.

We never bothered with coke — I assume my roommate did it, but I guess I wasn't cool enough. It also wasn't a time when there was a big market; we got opium every now and then, and knew a surprising number of people on heroin but that was never something we wanted to get into, if only because it seemed a lot more dangerous.

We didn't make a ton of money — I think the most we ever had on hand was about $30k, which is a lot of cash, but that included operating budget as well as profit. And after a while, we moved on — I got a regular job at a magazine where I made way less money, but was actually enjoying what I was doing. My roomie got a job as a mixer at a studio in Chicago, then went back to school to finish his audio engineering degree. We just passed on our connection to one of his bandmates, who had been moving half a pound a week from us at that point.

The only time I ever heard about the connection again was when there was a fire at his housing complex — it started a few doors down from him, and he was on the front page of a local newspaper with his neighbors, staring at his burning apartment. Hope he he'd moved his stash recently, but I didn't feel like reaching out to ask.

(I did find out a little bit later that an old family friend was marginally connected to the same conduit; he'd pick up in Detroit and move commercial through Ohio. He's an upright white dude in his 50s who always votes Republican and owns a respectable agricultural business, and also brings hundred pound shipments south. But he's pretty well intimated that the reason why he's never gotten busted for anything is that he's just a little guy in a much larger family operation.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:08 AM on January 20 [21 favorites]


There is almost no legitimate reason for most people to have that much cash all at once.

High stakes poker in jurisdictions where it's legal is a very legitimate reason and yet about once every year or two there's a story of someone having their bankroll confiscated by TSA at their home or connecting airport.

Years ago, before the nude scanners, I would often carry cash for my professional poker player boyfriend because my demographic was statistically far less likely to be searched and detained than his.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:46 AM on January 20


So, pot is measured in Imperial, but coke is in metric? Any idea why?
posted by Chrysostom at 11:46 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]


A very similar piece in Toronto Life: Breaking Brian.

In January 2012, Shin invited Diubaldo out for coffee, something they’d done regularly. But this time was different: Shin seemed agitated, and Diubaldo guessed that something was wrong. Then, Shin dropped a bombshell. For nearly half his life, he told Diubaldo, he had trafficked marijuana. He’d started in Grade 9 and worked his way up the food chain for 14 years—keeping his double life secret from his family all the while—and at his peak dealt upwards of 500 pounds of weed a year and handled $1.8 million in cash. He recounted how, in the summer of 2009, he’d been arrested at his stash house, how his parents, heartbroken at the news, had bailed him out, and how he was now awaiting trial. Working as a headhunter, he said, was a way to cover his legal bills, but the guilt of lying was gnawing at him. He was desperate to confess before Diubaldo read about him in the news.

It's a heck of a story.
posted by GuyZero at 11:52 AM on January 20


Protip: Never carry half a pound of weed on the F train while tripping balls. Not good business sense.
posted by Splunge at 12:09 PM on January 20


Possibly the relatively lower value meant that people would be more likely to use home weight-measuring equipment, vs. coke where if you're moving any amount it would make sense to buy a precision scale that would be metric? Or that coke is grown in countries that have switched to metric long ago, vs. pot that is grown in the US and Canada in addition to other countries. That and the fact that trade quantities for pot (ounce, eight, pound) may have become established before the conversion to metric, and have just kept on.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 12:14 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


I know moving more than $10,000 across the border is a big deal, as is depositing that large a sum into a bank account. But is it that hard getting it from California to Texas?

There are strict reporting requirements on cash transactions greater than $20k, as well as cash transactions less than $20k which might suggest to someone that you are trying to structure things so as to get around the $20k limit. (So if you make 4 or more deposits of $5k each in a short period, that is probably reportable too.) One of the Swiss banks just got in trouble for not reporting recently, which makes me think that if you are the right sort of person -- okay, let's be blunt: rich, white person -- you can dodge the requirements, but maybe not if you're running drugs. (As opposed to tax evasion, which they might be more ... understanding of.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:30 PM on January 20


In Australia we have used the metric system for almost forty years, but me is sold by the ounce and coke by the gram.
I have heard larger amounts of weed being calculated in kilos, however.
posted by bystander at 12:54 PM on January 20


So, pot is measured in Imperial, but coke is in metric? Any idea why?

It's more of a measurement system that starts with metric, then goes to imperial, then back to metric. Which one depends on how much you are talking about. I was told once that mostly is a weight to strength ratio kind of thing. For example, take an ounce of pot vs. an ounce of coke. At the consumer level, pot is commonly sold by the ounce, half-, quarter-, and eighth-ounce. However, coke starts at the eighth of an ounce mark (the eightball) and is broken down from there, and if you stuck with the imperial system, the fractions get to be harder to picture in people's minds, so grams are better at dealing with the real small stuff. For the larger amounts, a big factor is the country of origin, so in the case of coke coming from South America, you end up with shipments broken into kilogram sized portions.
posted by chambers at 1:13 PM on January 20


Interesting. All these comments and only one takes the guy to task for what he did.

Compare that with the pasting Sam Polk is getting a few posts up.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:17 PM on January 20


At the medical stores here in California, weed's also sold by the gram, but yeah, scales that can get that accurate are more expensive. Usually you have to guestimate around tenths of ounces, which is another reason why selling small amounts is a pain in the ass.
posted by klangklangston at 1:23 PM on January 20


Interesting. All these comments and only one takes the guy to task for what he did.

Compare that with the pasting Sam Polk is getting a few posts up.


By any sane metric, Wall Street has done way more damage than pot dealers.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:52 PM on January 20 [4 favorites]


Interesting. All these comments and only one takes the guy to task for what he did.

That is an interesting observation. However, the story is pretty much "guy bites off more than he can chew, loses fortune due to incompetence" that has at least some form of negative consequence to his actions at the end, as opposed to the other post where there is a reasonable anger in the lack of consequences to the actions of Wall Street.

Taking into account this is an anonymous anecdotal story, it does show a bit of the mechanics of the system, which is interesting. In any case, nothing in this story presents him as a sympathetic, likeable character. The "excellent position at a startup in LA" is a weird addition at the end that set off a bunch of bullshit alarms to me. It could mean anything from a 'real' high-paying job to assistant manager of a second-hand taco stand specializing in selling 'previously served', half-finished meals and leftovers.

Another way of looking at it could be that this is a story of a guy who worked hard to make a fortune and ended up making a surprise donation of $200k to Texas law enforcement, I suppose, and discussion of the current practice of seizure and forfeiture of property by law enforcement has arisen from it here.

As for the arrest and conviction of the guy who was hired to transport the money, he was hired for the job, and seeing as he was reputable enough to be trusted by their 'California connection', it would be reasonable to assume that that person has had a reasonable amount of prior experience with them to earn that trust, as opposed to having it stashed in the car of some unsuspecting innocent bystander. However, we are reading only his version of it, which is definitely not the whole story.
posted by chambers at 2:27 PM on January 20


GuyZero beat me to linking that Toronto Life story. This guy had an MA in tax accounting and did a stint at Deloitte while dealing on the side. After he got busted, he got a $130K corporate headhunting job to pay his legal bills. Why bother with crime if you can make that much legit?
posted by sevenyearlurk at 4:08 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


Why bother? Like the story says, because you're a baller. Also, it paid for university tuition and a lot of stuff. Getting a high-paying job ain't easy.a
posted by GuyZero at 9:52 PM on January 20


By any sane metric, Wall Street has done way more damage than pot dealers.

Sometimes identical. The only time I have felt shady buying weed was buying overpriced $65-70(! and I stopped buying) 1/8ths from "Drug Dealer M___" who shared a common name in our circle. He was NYU Stern, so I didn't feel shady from the weed, just from thinking of all the businesscrime that guy was gonna get up after college. Guy has potential political connections too.

Reading the media, it's funny how potsmoking is uncommonly rare in journalists, outside of some places like Rolling Stone or Vice, and Andrew Sullivan. Other than that, David Brooks used to smoke pot but even as a child he could tell that continuing would deny the world the fullest expression of the form of David Brooks, and the NYT had some guy who carried some around to an ill person, it was pretty edgy. But they can usually still dig up a dealer who will trust them regarding anonymity.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 11:42 PM on January 20


klang, were you my college roommate? Because that's the exact same trajectory he followed. Started with selling just enough weed so he could smoke for free, then selling enough to have a bit of extra spending money, then onto selling enough to cover rent and tuition. All the while moving up to only dealing in larger and larger quantities, which is just good business sense, really.

By the time he quit only long-time customers and friends could buy anything smaller than an ounce from him. Anything smaller just wasn't worth the time or effort, especially since, yeah, there's the whole ritual of making small-talk and then hanging out to smoke a bowl or two after the buy. On a smaller scale, that's all nice and friendly, but when it's happening almost a dozen times a day it starts to get really tedious really quickly. There was a time right before he moved from selling eighths/quarters to larger amounts when the house we were renting was permanently hotboxed, because there was a constantly a group of people sitting in my living room packing a bong as part of that whole friendly first bowl song and dance.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:47 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]


In NYC we buy weed quickly, with cheerful brusqueness.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:08 PM on January 21


« Older Sociologist Cat is Watching You Text...in Public   |   all the ornery people... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post