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he consumer, and is, therefore, small in bulk and large in
number—the friendship end of the spectrum is far more common than the profit end.
Motives for Selling
The motives underlying marijuana dealing are complex. Although at the top of the
hierarchy of selling, profit is likely to dominate more than is true at the bottom, there is no
level in the distribution system (on the American side of the transaction at least) where
profit is the sole reason for dealing. In contrast, the expressed motives for selling heroin
might be reduced to two: profit (at the top), and the use of heroin (at the bottom). With
marijuana, the picture is considerably more intricate. Certainly the free use of marijuana
predominates—at least in frequency, if not in the strength of motivation.
But beyond "free grass" and some profit, the reasons for selling vary. Some dealers
enjoy the cloak and dagger intrigue, at least in the beginning:
The dealer commands a certain mystique in the East Village. He is playing a
far more dangerous game than the customer, and he is respected for it. For
himself, the excitement surrounding a "big deal" and the ritual and
accoutrements of the trade act as an antidote for the growing plague of
boredom. Most dealers are proud of their fine scales, and enjoy the ritual of
sifting and weighing their stock. The exchange, sometimes involving large
amounts of cash and drugs, is the climax of the business and may have an
"007" sort of intrigue.14
The fact that one is a sometimes central figure in a subcommunity whose values and
evaluations of others revolve,15 in part, around drug use and especially "inside dopester"
information concerning drug prices and sources acts as an attraction for many users to sell
and deal. The dealer is acquainted with a scene from which the nondealer is to some
degree excluded. The dealer simply knows more about what is happening in a sphere of
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The Marijuana Smokers - Chapter 10
some importance to the smoker; moreover, he distributes a valued object, which the
smoker could obtain with a little more difficulty from others. A twenty-seven-year-old
high school teacher only sporadically involved in selling explains the reasons for his
It's this: being in on something that's important to others. Other people are
dependent on you. They have to rely on you. You are, in a minor sense,
controlling their destiny. You are important—you have a source and they
don't, and that shows how "in" you are, how others trust you and maybe
even like you. You are a big man. Others come to you needing something,
and you dispense largesse. It's kind of an ego boost, I guess. Like, after
copping a quarter of a pound of grass, the guy I copped from said, man, I
want to get some DMT. I was in debt to this guy for getting the grass, see,
so I said, I can get you some DMT, man. It shows how much you know,
how you are in the middle of things, how you are hip.
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