'Hey, You Around?' is VICE's column asking drug dealers not just what they're selling, but how they're doing.
'J.W.' is 36, from Kansas City and has been selling weed, mushrooms, wax, cartridges and LSD since he got out of prison three years ago.
Hey, you around?
Always brother, what's good?
What do you sell and where?
Cannabis, concentrates, edibles, cartridges, shrooms, LSD at times. I love the psychedelics, but marijuana is my main thing. I do a lot of little retail stuff, quarters halves and ounces. I have a delivery service. We deliver all over the Kansas City area. Mostly ounces, carts, and edibles. There's a $100 minimum for delivery. Top of the line indoor, some greenhouse, and outdoor. I rock it all out at different price levels.
How do your customers know what you have or what’s new?
I do strain updates and send images by phone. I'm old school. I use burner phones. No social media like these youngsters. That's a bust in my book. I've been selling weed since back in the day—when cannabis was considered as bad or worse than heroin. I still use the safeguards practiced at the height of the War on Drugs. Call me paranoid, but I switch burner accounts every 21 days. Most of my customers are regular. They want an ounce every week or two. Some go hard on the indoor, some don't care. They like that 80s style weed. Some just want cartridges and edibles. Some like to trip.
How do they contact you to come over and score?
They just text my burner phone and give me their order. I prepare it and deliver it within 12 hours. No one comes to my house. In fact, I don't like anyone to know where I live. Keeps it better that way. Mostly I deliver to their residence, but sometimes we meet out in public at restaurants or gas stations. But I prefer to go to their house. I like to get to know my customers and see how they're living. It's important to have their trust. I run a cash business and my customers are super important to me.
How do you get new customers?
Through referrals from my current customers. For every referral I give $25 off the next order. It works out good. I get more business, my customers hook up their friends, and they get $25 off their purchases. I'm always looking to expand, but I'm careful. Not that I'm afraid of getting busted by the cops, they don't really sweat marijuana dealers these days. I don't want to get hooked up with any crackhead type customers, you know. I deal with professionals. Lawyers, doctors, nurses, business owners, people that work, and conduct themselves in an upwardly mobile manner.
How risky is it driving weed and psychedelics around the Kansas City metro area?
I'm pretty clean cut. When I tell people I'm an ex-con that did ten years for weed and LSD most people are surprised. I got a newer vehicle and obey the speed limits and traffic laws, so getting pulled over is the least of my worries. Plus I keep everything wrapped up and vacuum sealed in plastic. Just in case I do get pulled over I don't need a cop smelling weed and wanting to search my car. I don't smoke in my car either. I keep it clean, so when I'm riding dirty there's no reason to give me more than a cursory glance. Just another Midwest guy going about his day in the suburbs. If you drive safe it's not really that risky at all. I sell small amounts too, ounces and under, so it's not like I'm hauling pounds around, like in my younger years before I caught my case. I really don't think the cops really care.
Ever had trouble with the cops or close calls or sketchy moments?
I did ten years in prison, but I've been out for a minute. Everything's been going pretty smooth although I did catch a case for weed possession. That's going through the system now. With the way the laws are now I'm probably looking at probation, even with my record. I never stopped selling.
The way I look at it, cannabis is legal. They just approved medical marijuana in Missouri. Kansas, where I got my case, hasn't decriminalized yet, but they get so many big weed busts from people smuggling cannabis out of Denver that they've kind of streamlined their law enforcement efforts. I've seen people, with cooperation, get probation for 50 pounds, so it's not a big bust like it's been in the past.
The one thing that sucked with my possession case was that I had to take a urine test as part of my bond conditions. I had to stop smoking. But it's cool, I just sell now. I'm in the process of getting a medical card. When I do, I'll start smoking again. The cops can't do nothing once I get that.
Have you ever been robbed by bogus buyers or have someone not pay you a debt for stuff they got on the front?
That's happened to me in the past when I was younger. I fronted two pounds to these guys when I was in college and they got robbed. They tried to pay me back, but I basically had to eat it. Plus over the years different guys have fucked shit up. I had one guy that owed me sven grand and another ten grand. Never collected.
But that was before I did my ten year bid. Since I've been out I deal on a cash-only basis. If you don't have the cash you can't get the weed. Makes it easier that way. I've gotten burned so I've learned not to trust in that regard. But most of my customers are professionals and working class types so they always have money to spend.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Selling weed and psychedelics is just my side hustle. I got a regular job too. I work at a restaurant. But selling gives me extra money to spend and use for my bills. That way I can keep my legit money in the bank. Not like I'm getting rich off my delivery service, but it makes ends meet. I've basically been selling to support my habit. But since I can't smoke right now it seems like I’ve been making more money. I love selling weed and I always have. I love selecting the weed, running my hands through it, smelling it, weighing it up into ounces and bagging it up.
I'm just a marijuana guy for real. Always have been. Some people are butchers or auto mechanics, I'm a marijuana connoisseur. I have to admit that I love the counterculture and outlaw perspective to it. That feeling like I'm a rebel, going against the grain so to speak. I've always felt like I'm supplying a much needed service. The world wants and needs marijuana and I bring it to them. My motto here in KC is that I bring Denver to you.
What do you do in your downtime and how do you balance dealing with real life?
I work out a lot and like to go mountain bike riding and hiking. I like to be outdoors. When I’m not working or selling weed I like to get out in the sun and hang out in the wilderness or at someone's pool. I go out to eat a lot with my girl, plus we go to a lot of concerts or music shows. I balance my delivery service with my job by scheduling drop-offs before or after work. It's like I got two jobs really.
What do customers do that drives you insane?
The biggest pet peeves I have are when my customers buy from someone else. There's a lot of weed around, a lot of competition, and consumers try to play dealers off each other. I like repeat customers. I treat my customers good. When they go somewhere else, it's like a betrayal.
Do any of your customers smoke worrying amounts of weed?
I encourage my customers to take tolerance breaks. That good indoor that's around everywhere right now can be like 25 percent THC. That shit will leave a motherfucker brain dead. Zombified, you know what I mean? I like to smoke some good outdoor myself. When I see my clients get like that I'll act like I don't have anything to sell them or I'll tell them I'm waiting on a shipment to come in. I wouldn't want anyone to become addicted. That's not right. I don't think marijuana can be addictive. But people can abuse it. I don't support that.
I've gone through periods where I smoke from sunup to sun down. Wake and bake has always been my calling card. It’s about moderation. I see drug abuse in others. But a lot of it depends on how much access to money they have. And weed isn't like heroin. You’re not going to shoot up thousands in a few days. But I've seen people and I've been that person who’s smoking too much. I have to check myself and I've checked others even when they didn't appreciate my interference.
Do you plan on getting out the game?
I'm getting out sooner than later. Legal weed is coming and they will start cracking down on the unlicensed. Not to throw offenders in jail like the War on Drugs, but by taking their crops and stock. Just wiping them out like it's nothing. Big pharma is taking over the game. They want their money. The days of weed and outlaws is coming to a close.
I'm planning on winding it down now. I'll check out the shops and maybe even grow my own. Missouri's guidelines allow patients to grow six plants. It's been a good hustle while it lasted and I'll still pick up exotics here and there and offer to certain friends that I know have the cash ready, but basically the delivery service will be over. I want to start growing. And become a caretaker for others so I can grow more weed. It will take me back to my pre-prison days.
Will drugs always be part of your life?
I think drugs, at least maybe marijuana and possibly mushrooms, will always be a part of my life. They help me to look at things differently and see the world for what it is. I need that mind fuck or escape or whatever you want to call it. All humans do. It's just how we're wired. It makes no difference if it's marijuana, nicotine, caffeine, cocaine, or sugar. They're all drugs. In effect you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. It's all about moderation.
*Interviews were conducted over encrypted message and names changed; the interviews have been lightly edited for clarity.