'Hey, you around?' is VICE's new column asking drug dealers not just what they're selling, but how they're doing.
Lucius*, 28, is from east London and has been selling weed, cannabis oil and pills for five years.
VICE: Hey, you around?
What do you sell and where?
Mostly weed and cannabis oil, but I dabble in Xanax and ecstasy pills, usually around the east London area. Xan sells like hotcakes. London loves Xanax. Only issue is there’s a lot of fake xans around.
Is it all word of mouth? Do strangers contact you?
Mostly word of mouth, but I get contacted online quite a bit. That’s quite a good earner, actually, now, because people who contact you online are usually more willing to part with more cash. But it’s higher risk, of course, 'cos who knows who it’s gonna be?
How do they contact you online?
Instagram. A lot of money to be made on Instagram.
How has Instagram changed your business?
A lot of new faces. Most of the oil goes to people who’ve contacted me on Instagram. Oil can be very hard to obtain and I get plenty of it, so people will part with more cash. I’ve got friends who work full time through Instagram sales. I get a lot of unique strains in, strangers on the internet lap it up. It’s just riskier though. Never know when it could be a police officer.
How do you judge that?
I have a vetting process, but if I give that away then they’d know how to slip through it [WINK EMOJI]. A lot of it is just common sense. Some profiles are very suspicious and it’s not worth the risk, but some people are clear cannabis enthusiasts.
I guess exchanging the goods is the risky part?
Yeah. I prefer areas I know where I can get a look at them before they see me. Undercovers aren’t hard to spot, but it could still be an informer or someone being watched. This is always a risk. I just consider it worth it.
Ever had trouble with the cops?
Nah, not while selling. I’ve been nicked for possession, but that was just a fine and caution. I’ve had close calls. I’ve had a couple of customers buy on tick and not pay back, but for the most part it’s been calm. I’m fortunate, really.
Have you been robbed by bogus buyers?
Never. I’ve had friends who’ve been held at gunpoint, though. It’s not a big risk – always could happen, though…
What’s the best thing about your job?
The freedom and the drugs [LOL EMOJI]. I use everything I sell, so its fuckin' great. Being in control of whether you're gonna leave the house or make some money today is great. I meet some jokes people, get fucked up and make money. Can’t complain about that! I’ve got a problem with authority so I can’t hold a normal job.
Why do you have a problem with authority?
I was a troublemaker at school. It’s always been that way. I never liked being told what to do. I calmed down in my later teens, but I’m still not big on being bossed around. A lot of people who grew up where I grew up are the same
What do you do in your downtime?
In my downtime… I do drugs [LOL EMOJI]. I’m a simple guy. I ride my bike, I fall off skateboards, I go out and get wobbly.
How long have you been dealing drugs and how did you get into it?
I’ve been selling on and off for five years. Growing up in east London, you are surrounded by crime, so it’s easy to fall into. I’m surprised I didn’t start earlier, tbh. My best friend at the time’s brother sorted us out with a good link for ounces of weed, then it just picked up from there really.
Does your mum know you sell?
Probably has an idea.
What do your friends think about your job?
Some find it quite beneficial! I've only had one girlfriend who wasn’t into it. Others are relatively supportive or uninterested. My ex would let me keep bud and money in her flat, but didn’t smoke herself.
What do customers do that drives you insane?
Customers who want it on tick can be a nightmare. I like to have my money straight away. Don’t tell me you want something then don’t take it. A lot of people show interest in shit and then don’t buy – it happens a lot with oil. And haggling: I don’t like haggling. If I name a price, it’s the price. You meet some weird fuckers, people who try to be your mate, people who don’t leave you alone, etc. Everyone is friendly, though, both customers and suppliers.
Do you have any other work? Does selling pay the bills?
I consider it freelance dealing – it isn’t all day, every day, but it’s my main earner usually. I do a bit of work in bars, which helps because that’s where half my clients are.
Do you plan on getting out the game?
No, I plan on doubling down [LOL EMOJI]. I’ve been out of the country for a few months and when I get back I won’t have many other options. I’ve got a fuckin' degree. I need to do something with it. I might go legit, but drugs will always be a part of my life.
Why will drugs always be part of your life?
I’ve got an addictive personality and a substance abuse problem. It’s not for any particular drug. I just don’t dig being sober. I enjoy drugs, I’ve always been around drugs. I’ve got a lot of friends in the game. It’s hard to say for certain, but I don’t see things changing. I do have other aspirations, but when people see you a certain way, it's hard to shake that reputation.
Appreciate your time, Lucius.
*Interviews were conducted over encrypted message and names changed; the interviews have been lightly edited for clarity.