'Hey, you around?' is VICE's column asking drug dealers not just what they're selling, but how they're doing.
Kristi, 48, is a Deadhead who’s been selling cannabis since the 1980s. She divides her time between New York, where weed is illegal, and California, where it’s legal.
Hey, you around?
Right here, right now.
What do you sell and where?
I sell organic cannabis grown in California, preferably outdoor sun and soil cannabis. It gets sealed up, mailed to me and we ship it all over the country. Some of it I sell legally and some illegally.
How did you first get involved in drugs?
When I went to boarding school in 1985 I had never seen cannabis. I had smelled it in NYC movie theaters and had an aunt who smoked openly till my mom stopped talking to her for 12 years. One of the other freshmen in my boarding school was from the Santa Cruz mountains of California. She was from a lovely family and her nanny sent her beautiful high-quality cannabis in the mail. So the first cannabis I ever smoked was from Santa Cruz. Did I mention that this was an all-girls school? So it didn't take me long to venture out into the town and meet the cutest town boys and start selling ounces to them. This was not a money-making venture, this was just the way for me to get cannabis without buying it.
How long have you been selling weed?
Since 1987. Many of my customers are lifelong friends. From the first time I smoked cannabis in 9th grade I went ahead and started buying large quantities and splitting it up between friends. The thought that this plant cost a lot of money didn't make sense to me. Even though I've smoked pot basically every day since I was 14, I still have never paid cash for cannabis to smoke myself.
Where do you sell from?
I never sell any cannabis out of my home. Because I am a mother, I have kept my business away from my house. I do not suggest creating traffic in your home when it comes to doing illegal things. We learned that from Biggie Smalls and my grandmother: "Don't shit in your own backyard."
How risky is it dealing in weed now as opposed to the 80s and 90s?
In the late eighties and early nineties, [when] the word cannabis didn't really even exist in everyday speech like it does now, the real risk was getting involved with people who fucked with other drugs and would end up ratting you out when they got busted for weed. I’ve sold cannabis since 1987 and have only been arrested once, and that was when I left an abusive man and he went to the police [and] ratted me out.
As long as there are people in prison for the cannabis plant I will stand firm in believing that we do not pay taxes, we do not support the government, and fund their incarceration nation.
You move large amounts of weed around. Ever come close to a big bust?
I have had multiple sketchy moments, like 12 pounds being shipped to my previous rental address. I had to wait three weeks for it to be rerouted to my current address. I would look out the window every day wondering if they were going to come and get me with big charges. It did show up, but I learned a big lesson. That’s when I went down to two pounds at a time if the customers were choosing to go through USPS.
Who are your wholesale customers?
Mostly incredibly talented musicians and artists who want to send their children to private school. There are multiple people who have spent decades selling my cannabis and not worked a real job and sent their kids to private school. There are huge numbers of people in our community that do not buy into the nine-to-five, sell your soul for health insurance lifestyle. We enjoy working together and building each other up. It's a really sweet kind of hippie mafia based on organic food and non-governmental lifestyle.
As long as there are people in prison for the cannabis plant I will stand firm in believing that we do not pay taxes, we do not support the government, and fund their incarceration nation. I’ve never paid taxes and I'm 48.
Have you ever been ripped off?
I have been ripped off more times than I would like to admit. My worst experience was when I was moving large quantities of cannabis from Santa Cruz to the Bucks County area of Pennsylvania.
I met this incredibly talented man with a really lovely mother and a beautiful farm. He had a guitar, the same kind Trey Anastasio plays. It sounded so beautiful he would come to my house at night and play me beautiful music.
After a short while I decided that I could have this man sell my cannabis. He agreed I could throw a festival on his farm. We worked on it for months and became really close friends, sharing birthdays and holidays with our families.
Until one day when we were getting 65 pounds delivered, and my Santa Cruz contact was pulled over in Pennsylvania. My address was in the GPS, [so] I took all of my money and all of my cannabis in the whole world and brought it to my friend's farm. I asked him to watch $23,000 for me.
During the time he's holding my money, he meets a new woman on Facebook, dumps his wife at the festival that I throw, and when I try and get my money back, I never see a dime. Literally, he stole every penny, dumped his family, and lured a girl off of Facebook with my money.
How do you balance selling with your private life?
I have always believed that less is more. Most of my cannabis career I have sold all the cannabis that I broker to one or two people. If it wasn't for my loudmouth ex-husband telling everyone about my business, no one would know what I did. They were actually many years that he didn't even know. Unfortunately in the cannabis and most black market industries, relationships are the biggest risk. Crazy girlfriends, crazy husbands, all of it, people can be very vindictive when it comes to the end of a relationship or a custody battle.
What do you do in your downtime?
I’m an activist in my downtime. Supporting human rights is what I choose to do. I spent many years working on getting people who have been jailed for selling weed out of prison. Sometimes it’s a success. There is a lot of work to be done with prison reform and I find it very important. There are literally people serving life for a plant. The plant that the government is now literally making billions of dollars off of. It is very important that we all work together and free all cannabis prisoners. I also believe in growing organic cannabis and using it for treating cancer, Parkinson's, MS, migraines, and colitis. For this I donate cannabis all over the country.
Does your family know you sell?
Over the last 30 years things have changed greatly. The fact that I was a cannabis distributor was known and not discussed, never something my father would have been proud of. Now he is calling me with investment ideas with his friends using my medicine on his senior citizen customers. Having scientific evidence behind cannabis now has turned things around very quickly in the educated communities.
What do your friends think about your job?
My friends think it's cool that when they come to my house they have huge tubs to roll joints out of. I grow organic cannabis and make cannabis oil and donate it to friends and family, so they definitely love that. Having a cannabis caregiver definitely is appreciated in my circle. In my GDF circle we love cannabis.
What do customers do that drives you insane?
I actually love my customers. What I don't like is when I give it to people and they say they're going to pay me and they don’t. I learned a long time ago that it's not worth working with people that you can't communicate with.
A lot of people think selling cannabis is really easy. They think they're going into the business and they're going to make millions. They've spent years talking about it with their friends, but the reality is it's really hard work. You really have to be in the game paying attention, making sure your whole life is on track to be doing this one thing. It takes a lot of focus when you're working with a lot of stoned people and a lot of people thinking they know what they're doing, when they have no idea.
Do you plan on getting out the game?
One of the things I love the most about being in the cannabis industry is that it changes so much so quickly. When you're growing you're doing something different every month. What I've found I really love is that as I've gotten older I've started getting out of selling and distributing. It's almost just like a progression, a ladder to be climbed and I like farming and making medicine now. Don't get me wrong, I could definitely move cannabis if need be.
Appreciate your time, Kristi. Take care and be safe.
*Interviews were conducted over encrypted message and names changed; the interviews have been lightly edited for clarity.