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May 4, 2014 | by  | in Features Homepage |
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Interview with a Budding Entrepreneur

Drug dealers: gang-related, aggressive, poor, ethnic, strangers. Salient’s resident gonzo journalist Mac Money knows that perception is false, so he sat down for a few bongs with his friend and dealer, Cuzzz. Salient can’t use his real name, but we can describe his appearance: he’s white, middle-class, soft-spoken, perceptive and filled with entrepreneurial spirit. Mac and Cuzzz talked business. As always, it’s booming.

What’s your occupation?
I’m a student. I’m currently finishing off a Bachelor of Arts. I suppose you could say this is also my job (points to the pile of weed, tin foil and scales on the table).

Tell me about how you got into the business.
I didn’t qualify for StudyLink living costs last year after going on a bit of a bender in second year. I panicked when I realised I wasn’t gonna get the money. I didn’t tell my parents for quite a while. I got a Student Job Search job to get some capital, then got some ounces and started the game.

How easy or hard would it be for an average person to start selling?
Easy as. Demand is really limitless, it’s just how much you can supply at the end of the day. Like, there will always be hungry mouths to feed. It’s a habit-forming thing.

Do you run it like a proper business?
I definitely am more conscious now of the profit side of things than when I started. I was more hand-to-mouth back then – I was literally selling a couple of tins to get enough money to pay rent on Fridays. I was pretty slack back then, smoking most of my profits away, so I had to get a lot more disciplined. Focussing more on profit influenced my own smoking patterns – I went from doing two papers in first semester and smoking beugs [slang for a bong] literally every day, to restricting myself to smoking in the evenings. When you’re going through about two grams a day through personal and social use, it chips away at your bottom line.

How do you attract customers? Do you do any marketing?
When I first started and needed to build up a big client base, I did tell friends to tell their mates that they trusted; a lot of the time I had no idea who I was selling to. But now I’m at the stage where I’ve cut pretty much all the randoms out. Mostly, I sell to my wider circle of mates, and their flatmates. There are way fewer degrees of separation. It’s much safer that way.

Would you say you’ve made friends who used to be just customers?
Definitely. Of course.

Is it strange for them to be friends as well as buyers?
Nah, not really. As I said, most of the people I sell to are mates. So usually they’ll come round for a couple of cones and buy at the same time. It’s less of a dealer–consumer relationship and more of a personal symbiotic relationship.

So less of a chore to see each other and more a pleasure?
Some might say.

Have you got any plans for growth?
I’m planning to get out of it fairly soon. I’ve gotten pretty big now, but the reasons I started selling don’t apply anymore. I’m getting a full Student Allowance. It feels more and more like it’s being greedy in some respects. I’m living comfortably and I’ve achieved what I wanted to in terms of being able to go to uni and not have to work.

How do you procure the product? Who do you get it from?
It’s not gangs. Unless you live in like Porirua or in a provincial town. I almost never get it from gangs. It’s mostly from middlemen who know growers, or mates who grow it themselves. During harvest time, I pretty much just get it from growers direct. Harvest is from about February to May.

How much of the drug supply do you think gangs control?
They control heaps of the growing, because that’s the dangerous part and they’ve got the muscle to evade police. Then they sell it off in pounds. They almost never sell ounces to low-level dealers. It’s all middlemen buying pounds and then flicking off ounces. Heaps of guys drive to the provinces where weed is cheaper and better quality, then take it back to the main centres and sell to dealers.

How much product would you move on average?
The most I’ve done in a week is over half a pound. You’ve gotta make a big turnover if you want to make a profit and have some to smoke.

Editor’s note: a pound is about 450 grams. An ounce is 28 grams. A standard $20 tinny weighs about 1 gram depending on the dealer. Cuzzz gives a bit more ‘cause he’s a generous motherfucker.

Where in NZ produces the best bud?
In my experience, I’d probably say Taranaki bud is the best.

Where does most of the weed in Wellington come from?
Heaps is from up the coast. Some of it is big indoor operations here. Gangs have their pads. And there is an understanding between cops and some growers and gangs. They’ll turn a blind eye. Or they’ll let you keep growing in return for giving them information.

What’s the most popular day of the week?
Probably Fridays or Saturdays. I get really weird spikes sometimes on Tuesdays. A lot of people want to get high on Tuesdays for some weird reason.

On a scale of 1 to 10, what’s the skunkiness of your product?

Tell us about your clientele.
I’d say 90 per cent white, middle-class, tertiary-educated young people. The future leaders of Aotearoa.

Ever thought of diversifying and selling other drugs?
I personally do them on the odd occasion, but I’m not really interested in selling them. Pot’s class C so if you get caught you’re gonna get a slap on the wrist, but if you have harder drugs it would be a whole lot more serious.

Are you worried about the police?
I personally haven’t had any run-ins because I just don’t look like the type of demographic that’s going to be pulled over or hassled. I’m just an average white guy with a laptop and a backpack. I have heaps of Māori friends who haven’t been so lucky.

What do you think about their approach to drugs?
I think they should just focus on the hard drugs. It’s a moral issue – I know for a fact that none of my customers are going to go off and overdose on my product or slash someone with a samurai sword or whatever. I sleep easy at night. Other dealers can’t say that. People who work in liquor stores can’t even say that. The Police would have so much more time to deal with harmful drugs if they just laid off dealers like me.

Do you support legalisation?
Yes, I support legalisation. It will be legal in our lifetime, no doubt. You could only eradicate drugs if the state was totalitarian. I don’t know what the model would be, but I believe it should be regulated by the state in some way. You don’t want to have the situation we have with alcohol and tobacco where big lobbyists run the show and all the money and power is concentrated in a couple of huge corporations.

Wouldn’t you lose your business?
Once it’s made legal, I would have no qualms with opening a dispensary and making a career out of this. I can think of far worse ways to make a living than selling hash brownies to people.

Do you think that cannabis can be a harmful product?
Definitely. It’s like any other product – if you abuse it, you’re gonna get hurt. Sitting in bed ripping bongs all day is going to ruin you. But if you use it maturely and in moderation, it’s safe. Smoking pot in the evenings in your lounge with mates or whatever is harmless. Most of the harm comes from getting into trouble with the law.

What about mental-health effects?
A lot of the anxiety and depression that’s associated with cannabis consumption can be connected with the fact that it’s illegal. If it was a legal product and people looked at it rationally, would people be as anxious or depressed worrying about their friends judging them for indulging in a bit of enjoyment? They’re not going down to the pub or whatever; they’re at home smoking a joint. Some people don’t like drinking because it makes them angry or black out or whatever, so it’s weird to say they can’t enjoy a different drug which is less harmful and more enjoyable for them individually.

Anything else you wanted to add?
Can I just say fuck John Key?


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