In a conversation from four years ago, a pot dealer talks shop, the economy, and politics
When a campus pot dealer voices his opinion about state marijuana legalization, it’s atypical for them to say that, while they think it’s smart from a business standpoint for the state to capitalize on the possible income from taxing marijuana, they don’t see themselves favoring it in the future, believing it could make them begin to resent what they had once loved about their state.
It was a warm Spring afternoon in 2017 when a dealer in the notoriously known “party dorm” at their small, private four-year university sat down for an interview about his college side hustle. He was just a freshman then, looking for an easy way to make money and stoke the flames of his own smoking habit. The source, who chose to remain anonymous, will be referred to from here on in as “Mr. Blunt.”
In the time of this interview, the media liked to portray drug dealers as people you would least expect; they were people like Nancy Botwin, the suburban housewife from Weeds, and the high school chemistry teacher, Walter White, from Breaking Bad, or whatever comical character screenwriters could come up with for movies. Given the representation, the fact that Mr. Blunt is a nondescript kid from a suburb in New York state should come as no surprise.
Dressing in a navy blue, long-sleeve Vineyard Vine shirt and khaki pants, he sat on the settee of the dorm’s common room, one leg propped up on the knee of the other and leaned back nonchalantly. He didn’t seem to care that anyone could walk in at any moment, be it another student or campus security. In this particular dorm, there was an unspoken rule of sorts, a “live and let live” motto that guided these college freshmen and the resident assistants through each day.
This dorm took care of their own. They grouped together for parties. They texted warnings in a house group chat if campus security was in the area nearby. They cared, and so, for one year, this dorm acted as a family—a highly dysfunctional one— but still a family. So, of course, Mr. Blunt had nothing to fear sitting in the high-traffic common room just off the entrance of the building while talking about the small weed business he ran out of his shared room. For him, there was nothing to fear, no long-term consequences he had to worry about. In fact, when asked about any possible consequence he thought he would have to face if he were ever caught, he laughed and shrugged his shoulders saying, “I don’t know what the school’s policy is, but it would probably be something like being suspended or probation or something like that, but I’m careful with it so…”
At the time, Mr. Blunt stated that he would—at most—have an ounce of weed (the equivalent to about a small sandwich bag) at any given time, making sure to hide it carefully in his room given the number of surprise inspections the dorms would have throughout the year. If he had been caught selling, he could have been convicted of a felony, jailed for seven years, and faced a fine of $5,000. Depending on the harshness of the persecutor, he could have been tried for a much harsher crime; at the time, according to Penal Law 220.44, the sale of “marihuana” on the grounds of an educational facility is considered a class B Felony and punishable with up to 25 years in prison and a fine up to $30,000.
The “dealer” would also be subject to the policies of their university. If Mr. Blunt were to ever be caught in possession of marijuana by one of the public safety officers on campus, he would have run the risk of suspension or expulsion according to their school’s guidelines in addition to any judicial punishments. For the same crimes by today’s standards in New York state, possession of “marihuana” up to one ounce would constitute a civil violation and incur fines of no more than 50 dollars and face no jail time. If he were to be caught selling up to 24 grams (just shy of the 28 grams in his biweekly ounce pick-up), he would be charged with a misdemeanor and up to one year in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine. A sentence paling in comparison to the previous felony charge.
This decriminalization on a state level occurred in conjunction with the popular vote and the state’s new ability to tax marijuana. Colorado, a state early in the queue to legalize the Schedule I drug, has seen an increase in state revenue each year based on marijuana taxes, licenses, and fee revenues. According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, in 2014, revenue reached $67,594,323 and the most recent complete year reached a whopping $302,58,426 in state-collected revenue. Also, in 2019, Leafly, who touts themselves to be the largest cannabis website in the world, estimated California collected approximately $635 million in state and local cannabis tax revenue, a 35% rise since 2018. This despite the mediocre reception of Prop. 64 in California cities and counties when it comes to the legality of cannabis businesses. Proposition 64, passed by majority vote on November 8, 2016, decriminalized the personal possession and use of marijuana in adults 21 years of age and over, thereby reducing penalties in conjunction with these acts.
Despite this new-found view towards marijuana on a state level, Mr. Blunt was hesitant when discussing the effect state legalization could have on lowering the demand for weed through illegal sources as opposed to going to a dispensary. “I think that [state legalization] won’t have much of an effect because a lot of the distribution places you have a lot of identification and prerequisites to buy from there, he said. “So for people that don’t want to have to go through that, come to me, I guess. And I think it’s more expensive at a lot of those stores/dispensaries.”
In fact, he might have been spot on in his guess. Looking back three years later, college pot dealers still operate in the same manner that they have grown accustomed to. They still have clients-students knocking on their door or sending them a text on a number they got from a friend to purchase through illegal means, de-spite the new ability to purchase directly from a dispensary. College students seem to still be in a mindset of “this is an illegal act” and so they purchase it through illegal means. On one hand, they are correct in the fact that their schools and universities still outlaw the substance and act of partaking in marijuana and city and county laws still apply, but, even if these rules and laws were to change for whatever reason in the future, convenience is king to a college student, and if they could buy it on campus from a friend of a friend, it seems that they will continue to do so, if anything, to avoid traveling to a dispensary or the sometimes exorbitant price of taxes tacked onto their purchase.
It appears that, regardless of the time, college drug usage and deals are going to be heavily insulated to the collegiate system itself. It becomes difficult to separate one from the other. So, campus pot dealers—short of being caught—your side hustle might be something that is able to stand the test of time. As Mr. Blunt believes, regardless of state legalization and on-cam-pus competition, the law of supply and demand stands, and there will al-ways be a demand in college students. He started because he had a friend that sold and, though he didn’t take the opportunity until some time later, the fact that he could sell weed and support his own smoking habit led him into accepting the offer. He merely filled a space in the market by supplying to the party dorm on campus be-cause he lived in it.
For Mr. Blunt, his chosen side hustle came about through opportunity and his connections. He could and so he did and there wasn’t anything wrong with it unless he was caught. In the future, his political conservatism very well may influence a shift into a more conservative stance towards marijuana and state and federal legalization as well, but, while he was still in college, he still saw his place in it and chose to continue smoking weed every day to every other day, a habit he had picked up in the ninth grade.
Mr. Blunt has since graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the undisclosed university.