Canberra is the capital of both Australia and school excursions. It doesn't get a great rap from anyone interested in nightlife; it's too clean they say, and too PC. But then Canberra is a city full of well-paid domestic expats with not much to do after hours. Surely there's something going on.
The drugs stats say there is. At the last report, Canberra saw a 52 percent increase in trafficking charges—from 67 in the 2011-12 period to 102 in the last financial year. It has also been reported that there has been a 33 percent increase in drug manufacturing over that same time. So to understand what this scene looks like from the inside, we spoke to a Canberra drug dealer about what they see, and what we don't.
I started dealing around two and a half years ago. I had a friend who was dealing and I was impressed with the way he consistently turned over large sums of money each weekend. Also, because he only sold to people we knew or associates of theirs, there was never any trouble. Canberra has never been a place I've felt watched so I got in with him and started using his suppliers.
Monday to Thursday is pretty quiet here. Then when the weekends roll around, I start work. On a typical night, I'll start with dinner at a friend's or out in the city where I'll get a call or message. I know most of my customers so I'll generally be selling to a large group rather than one person. I then go back home to pick up what they want, then drive it out to them or meet them halfway. Canberra is spread out and driving can take a lot of time. Some nights I will be making four to five trips home.
I sell to an even split between public servants and tradesmen, a.k.a. tradies. Most of the public servants are around 27-years-old while the tradies would be 22 or younger. I used to prefer selling to tradies because they buy more—it's phenomenal how many people take drugs on residential and commercial work sites. But now I'm finding more public servants are buying than ever before. Maybe it's because of the amount of money they make. Or it could also be because they can sniff some coke at work and be productive and unnoticeable. Occasionally I get a call from people buying coke for "friends." When I prod a bit further these "friends" can range from local politicians to Canberra's professional sportsmen. Also without giving too much away, some footy players love coke. They enjoy splurging at home, away from the public eye.
Per week I am usually selling anywhere from seven to ten grams of coke, as opposed to an ounce of MDMA per month. People buy so much more coke because they think they need more of it to have fun. It wears off quicker so I guess that's why they're buying more too. There's also a demand for weed, but here in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) it's legal to grow your own up to a certain size. I find most people won't bother with dealers for a small amount of pot.
One of the reasons I feel safe here is the lack of police who actually bust in Canberra. As it's something of a halfway point between Sydney and Melbourne, the larger busts pass us by. Having said that, there was a recent raid in Hume, a Canberra industrial area. I have a friend in the Australian Federal Police (AFP) who told me that it was actually the utility company, ActewAGL, who discovered the lab and alerted the police. They were testing the sewers for hazards before entering a manhole, only to discover a lab was pouring dangerous chemicals down the drain. The chemicals tested positive for methamphetamine by-products and the lab was raided.
Most drugs in Canberra aren't made here. They're brought in on trucks from Sydney or Melbourne, mostly by the Rebels, who are the bikie gang with the monopoly. Personally I don't have an affiliation with bikers (a.k.a. bikies), but I know most other big time dealers do, further up the chain. For me bikies are hard line criminals and they don't mess about. Anyone who is pushing as much ice as they do through the capital is worth staying away from. They wouldn't feel ethically compromised by what they do. I'm not saying I do either, but the difference is that I see people having fun at a bar, not smacking out on ice and destroying their lives. Selling drugs for me has turned me away from taking them.
Canberra has a lot of wann-be dealers. Their biggest mistake is that they're too flashy with their drugs, money, and connections. Others just sell enough to cover the costs of getting high. But I'm a big believer in don't get high off your own supply. It's a cliche, but by sticking to this I usually turn around three grand a month profit, with the majority of that coming from coke. I buy it for around 80 to 85 percent of what I sell it for, depending on how pure it is.
The idea of being caught has never haunted me. I'm aware of the risks but I think if you're smart about how you do business, dealing here is pretty low risk. I'm happy with what I've achieved in under three years. I've had a lot of disposable income, which is something I'd never have had otherwise. I can't see myself doing this forever though, maybe not even for another 12 months. We'll see.
As told to Dan Nulley. Follow him on Twitter.