Fledgling attorney general Jeff Sessions has declared his intent to double down on the drug war, vowing to crack down on drug dealers lest the nation "go backwards." This may very well turn out to be posturing that won't have enough bipartisan support to come to fruition if the Trump administration's radioactivity levels continue growing at their current rate. Still, one can't help but wonder who these bad hombres are that have Sessions so shook?
Of course, the majority of drug dealers are, by and large, not the gang-bangers or narco kingpins Sessions and his pearl-clutching ilk imagine them to be. Sure. there are some Tuco Salamancas out there taking and ruining lives, but a fair number of pushermen and women are relatively normal people, living otherwise normal lives, supplying a demand on the black market. The banality and routine of their lives is much like yours or mine, even though they're participating in a kinda fucked up business.
I spoke with "Steven," a mid-level dealer who has been selling cocaine and MDMA in a major California metropolis for the last six years, and asked him the questions you've always been too timid to ask your own plug.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
VICE: Give me the story of how you wound up doing what you're doing? Did you make a conscious decision or did it snowball until you suddenly woke up one day and realized, "I'm a drug dealer?"
Steven: Sort of a mix of both. I saw my guy maybe too many times and finally he was like, "Why don't you take all the responsibility of doing this?" instead of seeing him like four times a day due to my delinquent friends.
Then, when shit hit the fan with the family business, it became a full-time thing out of necessity.
What are the worst things that customers do? And how do you deal with people who have these clear addiction issues? Is there a line where you'll cut someone off if it gets bad enough?
I hate when people come in for coke, do a bump and chill for a bit, and then go drop massive shits in my bathroom. I had to kick one guy out for constantly coming in and farting up my place. Like a molecule of blow hits his nostril and he's just ripping everywhere. In my kitchen even. Told him he had to take that shit outside before he caught hands. Other than that, people will just call me wasted or show up at my house in the middle of the night. You can tell when some are spiraling. It starts to become a liability then. And it's out of nowhere, too. It's people you see around a lot and kinda have respect for them and then all of a sudden it's five day benders. I'll get into it with them before it goes too far and tell 'em "I'm gonna cut you off for your own good. It's better for both you and me." The person who put me on was the one who taught me to do that but it's also just kinda my own moral code.
Have you ever been in a work-related situation where you feared for your own life? What happened?
Only a couple. People not pulling through on their side of things makes me look bad. And I'm not always sure how others will take news like that. Some higher up guys are a little brash, especially when it comes to larger quantities and dollar amounts. Fortunately, nothing too crazy has gone down. I haven't been robbed or nothing. All things considered, I keep my nose clean, if you will. What do you cut your stuff with?
Nothing, actually. I just get it—already cut in whatever way at the higher level—and put it in the bag. But I know some people who cut with some fucked up shit. I've seen things like toilet paper. Some Vegas guy was doing that. I have a lot of questions about that. Is it folded, pulverized, 2-ply? Did you try it after?
Besides stuff pertaining to the illegality, what do you hate most about the job?
The hours are crazy. You don't ever have a time where you feel like you're off the clock. It's sun up to sun down. Every day's a Monday and then Friday is like the Monday of all Mondays. It also depends on the size of your company. Ours has changed and grown a bit over the years. Before I was going through maybe half an ounce [of cocaine] a week. Now it's maybe 10 ounces a week. So I can call my hours a little better but it's still never ending. From the moment I wake up it's work time. Some days that's 9 AM, some days it's 1 PM, some days it's like fuck it, I'm not sleeping. How much money do you make? Have you crunched the numbers as to whether or not it's worth the risk and work/life balance?
My overhead's about nine Gs a week and I'm making maybe ten a month so… roughly $120,000 overall. I'd say with what I got going, it's still worth it but I should probably do a better job at accounting. But this is keeping it pretty safe instead of going all out and pushing with everything you've got. This is about as good as it gets without all the drama. I mean, there is drama, but it could be "people dying" drama. I'm just happy that's not a part of my life.
Have you ever sold to anyone noteworthy?
Yeah. Obviously not gonna put them on blast but there have been days where four or five millionaires have been sitting around my house having a chat like "Oh, your company just went public? How'd that work for you?" and then they'd exchange info and ideas.
What's the craziest bit of bartering a buyer has tried to pull with you? Are there other unexpected perks of the job?
That usually doesn't happen until they owe you money and I try to avoid that. As soon as you open that door, someone will immediately owe you. If everyone who owed me were to pay me back right now, I'd probably have $11,000 in hand, just off of small shit. And that's just what I can remember. But barter-wise, I've gotten cameras, a TV, some "I got you for this, you got me for that" type trades when going out.
A few sexual favor propositions here and there but that's sketchy. I don't fuck with that. It's like "Hey, I'll give you herpes in exchange for a bag." No thanks. Pussy don't get you a Tesla, anyway.
Drugs are a fantastic form of currency, though. They go really far. I've used it to help people with their careers. Greased some wheels for musicians at gigs and then get hooked up for shows later. Also, there's free drinks everywhere I go. And if you know anything about chefs you know they party harder than anyone so I get some really nice meals in.
Do you have a lot of anxiety from the illegal nature of the work? How does it manifest and how do you alleviate it?
Lots of anxiety. I think I lost all my hair from that. I drink a little bit, [and use drugs] to cope with that but mostly just try to stay active and keep my mind off it. Fortunately, I have a big picture in sight which keeps me focused. I'm not doing this shit to be cool.
What is that big picture? What do you want to be doing instead of selling drugs?
I want to be pioneering a new way to live life in the city. I'd love to set up my own little block, a cool little artist-ish area. Some sorta reverse-gentrification for my own. But that'd take a bit of money. It'd basically be hitting back in a positive way, though.
In the day to day, though, I'd love to be teaching kids how to draw. Follow Justin Caffier on Twitter.