This third installment of a three part series was by far the toughest article I have ever authored. Things in the marijuana industry have changed more in the last two years than any other time I have ever seen. Medical marijuana is becoming more and more prevalent; Obama issues a memo to step away from MMJ prosecution but then prosecutions continue; more and more people are moving West everyday to take part in the 'gold rush' that has become West Coast marijuana cultivation. It's crazy times, and I guarantee that out of the three articles that make up this series, this one will be the first to be outdated due to the unpredictability of the future of marijuana.
The future of the marijuana industry is very hazy. There is no doubt that the winds of change are upon us, as reefer madness era laws get reformed with each election cycle. Medical marijuana is spreading across the nation, with anti-terrorism efforts closing down the border flows. Everything is leading up to a future where marijuana is more and more accepted, and instead of being outright prohibited, it will be regulated (and rightfully so!). Dispensaries/collectives/cooperatives/clubs, whatever you want to call them, will continue to spring up, even in states that don't have laws that are set up to certify them. Corporate America is trying as hard as it can to harness the industry for it's profitability, and that will certainly continue. It's no longer an industry where 'a guy' gets it from 'some other dude' and now it's in a sandwich bag in front of you for purchase!
However, despite some uncertainties, there are quite a few things that my friends and I have come up with that could benefit a marijuana dealer with a few years under their belt. As always, these tips are in no particular order. If you are a rookie, and are just getting into marijuana sales, look at part one of this series, 'How to Be a Marijuana Dealer — Starting Up.' If you are past the starting stage, but want to build your skills and strategy, check out part two in this series, 'How to Be a Marijuana Dealer — Growing Your Business.'
One of the first things that I always tell people, no matter what stage of your business you are in, KNOW THE LAW. My website has a database of state laws, as does just about any marijuana activist organization. If you are savvy with Google at all, they are not hard to find. You will not know the risk you are taking (and with it the 'service fee') unless you know the law. It doesn't take long, and there are nice summaries out there so you don't have to be a bootleg lawyer to make out what you're reading.
Knowing politics is a great way to know potential trends in the industry. I'm not saying that you need to go out and get a degree in political science, but knowing what's on the political horizon in your jurisdiction is always a good idea. If laws are important, and politics adds to or takes away from those laws, then following the political process is a no-brainer. If you owned a energy company or a car company, wouldn't you want to know the possible changes to the laws you are required to follow to make your money? Of course you would, in any industry, and the marijuana industry is no different. The best places to go to find out any pending legislation is with a local activist chapter. These great people are working all day everyday to track legislation, and summarize the possible effects it will have on everyday citizens like yourself.
Another thing is to know how to survive a police interaction. If you are around marijuana all the time, it is inevitable that you will get pulled over with marijuana on you or in your car, or you will even have a police officer knock on the door of your residence depending on how nosy your neighbors are. Be prepared. Don't have stuff scattered about all around you, have it all in a designated place so it is easy to hide in a rush. And with that, obviously have a solid hiding place. In the glove box or under your bed is obviously not the best spot; put in some time and effort because it could mean the difference between odor and suspicion, or the cops going on their merry way suspecting nothing. Another thing with police interactions — know how to remain calm in a stressful situation. Cops have been trained to spot red facial skin, sweating, irregular breathing, enlarged neck veins, etc. If you are relaxed, and act like it is no big deal, cops are more likely to treat you as an information source, not a suspect.
A great way to build your confidence in a police interaction is to have a retainer with a local criminal law attorney. If you have the ability to drop a thousand bucks with an attorney to retain their services 'just in case,' then by all means do it. You wouldn't even have to know the law because you pay them to do that. You would just need to know what to tell the cops, which your attorney would be glad to coach you on. The attorney will inevitably try to tell you that he/she needs a retainer of five thousand dollars or more to 'cover any circumstance.' But trust me, you just need to pay him/her the lowest amount of money that they will give you a coaching session and their cell phone number. You can always pay them more money after you have been bailed out of jail. However, you only have one chance to make that first impression with the harassing officer, and if you ALREADY have an attorney, 99 out of 100 times they will leave you alone with no further questions. Cops are looking for easy prey, which comes along all day everyday. If you are all ready for a legal war before they have even asked you the first question, they are going to be smart and want to part of that, assuming the rest of your business is in order. A retainer with an attorney is by no means a 'get out of jail free card,' but when combined with a solid business strategy, it can be a nice weapon in your arsenal.
I hinted at this earlier in the article - know your neighborhood and your neighbors. Don't assume that you are some slick ninja that has all the tricks and no one around you knows what you are doing. Assume that EVERYONE is out to steal from you and/or narc you out in your neighborhood, and do what it takes to make that not happen. If that means having no one come to your house so be it. If that means always walking out of your house with a empty box of cereal with some ounces inside, put in the extra effort to avoid suspicion. If a neighbor is really nosey, beat them to the punch and offer to mow their lawn. Neighbors are more likely to talk to you during a problem if they have interacted with you before. If they don't know you, and wonder why you always leave your pad with a backpack, yet you clearly aren't in school, they will probably just call the cops to report suspicious activity. If they know you, they will harass you first, not law enforcement.
With neighbors too, you have to limit traffic in and out of your house. You have to maintain a good balance of deliveries versus letting people come over. You may think that your neighbors are under the impression that you are a very popular person. But let's get real; they might not know EVERYTHING that is going on, but they know enough to know that SOMETHING is going on. That is bad. And it's not just narcing that you have to worry about; you also have to worry about jackers. Most successful veterans I know don't do anything out of their own pad; they always deliver. This is an obvious pain in the ass (especially with today's gas prices), but if you want to survive the long haul selling marijuana, you do what you have to do.
Growing marijuana is a very tricky thing, and not just because of the obvious logistics. It sounds absolutely awesome and straight forward at first. 'I will get all this product for practically free, and my profit margin will soar' is what you tell yourself. If only it were that easy... There are a multitude of things that most people don't consider. First of all, it's far from free. There is a reason that people want so much for pot; because it costs a lot to grow a big heaping pile of top notch nugs. Between lights, fans, pots, the place to grow it at, soil, nutrients, building supplies, etc, it costs a ton of money. And don't even get me started on hydroponics! If I had a dollar for every time I saw a greenhorn at the growstore with visions of grandeur, I'd be the richest stoner in Oregon.
In almost every case, those greenhorns are dealers that have been flipping qp's and hp's and figure they should grow their own supply. It sounds like a good idea right? But, by the time their first crop comes, they have spent all of their re-up money on the garden operation, and since they are rookies at it, the crop doesn't pan out like they suspected. So not only do they not have the crop money, their re-up money is gone as well and all they have is some mediocre/horrible nugs that none of their friends want to buy. Everyone loses in that scenario, as the person hasn't been buying weed the whole time because their bankroll is gone. Then when the stuff comes, they are still not buying product because they are trying to get rid of the crap weed they grew. Everything would have been way better had the person just kept buying qp's and hp's and flipping them. You don't want to be this person, and you don't want your customers to be this person either. Everyone thinks that it is a good idea with no way to lose, but soon they find out that it was a gamble that didn't pay off.
Living a cash based lifestyle is absolutely vital to being a veteran marijuana dealer. I have seen hundreds if not over a thousand people making it to the veteran level of marijuana sales, and they always have the same question for me when they get there. 'What do I do with all of this cash; I don't want to bring suspicion?' On one hand they are doing the right thing by not going out and buying a bunch of things that involve paperwork (ie vehicles, property, etc) or putting it into the bank. But on the other hand, these people are also missing the fact that it's untraceable money, and it can still be spent.
When you go to the store to get groceries, or get gas at the pump, or go on vacation, or a number of other scenarios, use cash. Normally you would whip out the debit card to fill up your tank, but instead use cash. This indirectly builds your legit savings because instead of money coming out of your 'legal labor' funds, it just sits in their while you use your weed funds. There is no law out there that says you absolutely have to use every last penny from your paycheck or from gifts you receive throughout the year. Keep that money in the bank, and use your weed money instead. It's OK to have a paper trail for paychecks and gifts; it's not OK to have any extra money from illegal sales. With that being said, don't go around town flinging hundred dollar bills at every cashier either. Break those hundreds up when you go to the gas station or Walmart where the cashiers there do thousands of transactions a day, and use twenties or lower to make purchases at establishments that you frequent often. This sounds like an unnecessary step, but if you are trying to have a back up plan for your back up plan (which is how all true veterans roll), then you will do whatever it takes to keep that income flowing.
This leads into my next point — have a job. I know what you are thinking, 'The reason I am selling marijuana is so I don't have to have a job!' Don't get me wrong, sitting around the house all day smoking pot like Saul on Pineapple Express is every stoners dream, and a very worthy dream at that. But if you want to be a decade long marijuana selling veteran, you have to think more long term than that. Having a job, ANY job, is the ultimate front for any marijuana dealer. People never ask what you do for money because you are the 'fill in the blank' worker guy. If you don't appear to make enough money, tell nosey neighbors that your parents are rich, and that you try to work hard, but they still support you a little bit. That is believable. What is not believable is that your parents pay for everything, despite the fact that you sit around all day with people coming in and out of your residence all day long. For a great list of stoner friendly jobs, click this link.
Avoid all other forms of criminal activity. That seems straight forward, but it is rarely practiced. I have seen so many perfectly good marijuana dealers never make it to the veteran level because they fail to stick to this rule. Many of them avoid the obvious pitfalls of criminal activities such as hard drugs, guns, large crimes such as murder, rape, kidnapping, etc, but they don't avoid crime all together.
One major one is the DUII. As a marijuana dealer, have you really evaluated the possible and/or certain ramifications of a DUII? First and foremost, it costs a LOT of money. I don't know about other states, but here in Oregon it costs between 5-7k when all is said and done. That's two to three pounds of goodness taken out of your pocket right there. There is also the guarantee that your driving privileges will be taking a dramatic turn for the worst. You can file for a hardship permit or something else to drive at least a little bit, but you won't be able to make those late night deliveries, or make that three hour run to get in on a great re-up opportunity. This will obviously cut into your sales and/or result in an increase in foot traffic to your place. Both are undesirable.
Also, there could be lingering consequences from the initial DUII police interaction itself. Chances are if the driver was drunk, they probably haven't planned well and have more stuff on them to bring more suspicion such as cell phone messages, product, large amount of cash in the wallet, etc. The driver is not in the right state of mind to know their rights and fight off questions by the police. All of this leads to the inevitable search and seizure process, and you know the story from there. The entire thing could have been avoided if the person just got drunk and got a cab.
Another crime that most dealers don't think of, yet I have seen it performed time after time, is lighting off illegal fireworks. Every Fourth of July I have a friend that is selling marijuana, and with their profits, they purchase more illegal firecrackers than any juvenile delinquent could have ever fathomed. I will admit, I am impressed every time I see the boxes of roman candles, bottle rockets, and M-80's (illegal in Oregon, not sure about where the reader lives). However, I also get the instant preminitions of the person explaining to the cops why there are a bunch of burn marks in the road outside of their house. If the cops suspect you of lighting off illegal fireworks, and they have ANY evidence to support that suspicion (ie burn marks in the road, the mysterious smelly cloud of carbon lingering in your driveway, etc), they will search your house in a heartbeat looking for more fireworks. What else will they find? Do you see how the littlest activity can bring down your whole operation in one swoop?
Knowing the marijuana dealer calendar is crucial to becoming a veteran. The marijuana dealer calendar is something Ninjasmoker and I came up with a handful of years ago. It goes as follows: Marijuana dealer season roughly starts in June. The temperature is rising outside, and with it, marijuana sales. People LOVE to smoke pot on hot summer days, whether they are camping, having a picnic, playing frisbee golf, fishing, hiking, you name it. Younger people are out on summer break and are making money at their summer jobs back home from college. Labor jobs are picking up too, so there is also a lot of money out there to be had from that perspective too. Coincidentally, marijuana is becoming harder and harder to find because many indoor growers have a hard time with the raised temperatures, and outdoor growers are still waiting for the Fall harvest. The basic laws of economics take over, and supply and demand are at an optimal level for maximum profit. This is when traditionally marijuana dealers (that don't have a Fall harvest themselves) make the most money. The marijuana dealer wants to have as much product on hand as possible.
At the end of September, and definitely by the time October rolls around, things change dramatically. Summer jobs have ended, seasonal jobs have ended, people are back in school, and the Fall harvest is in full swing. There is more cheap marijuana on the West Coast than anyone could ever do anything with. I have seen prices fall as low as 3 pounds for 4 thousand dollars here in Oregon at that time, and while it wasn't the top notch chronic, it was still very worthy Southern Oregon outdoor. Getting rid of marijuana during the Fall is much more difficult unless you know a serious berry patch of rookies ripe for the picking. However, most veteran dealers sell to veteran smokers, so pulling 'fast ones' is not a possibility. The 'Fall flood,' as it is referred to here in Oregon, lasts for quite awhile. Over the course of the last decade, it has increased in longevity. I remember back in the early 2000's, it was usually over by Christmas. However, the last few years it has lasted well into March, and in 2010, it lasted almost into the Summer. That is great for consumers, but not so much for veteran marijuana sellers.
All along the calendar are big days to keep track off in anticipation of increased sales. The big two are obviously April 20 and July 4. April 20th is of course the official marijuana holiday, and Fourth of July is the largest party holiday. New Years Day is big too because not only is it the new year, but it's the first spike in purchases after the Christmas cash crackdown. People always purchase twice what they normally do around that time to be stocked up, and you should do the same. There are also other holidays such as Halloween, birthdays, Memorial Day weekend, Labor day weekend, etc that will see spikes in activity. Knowing the calendar will give veterans an edge when knowing when to hold 'em, and knowing when to fold 'em.
Fronting or floating marijuana to customers in the long term is like a mini lesson in macro-economics. When you float product to someone in the short term, it is very straightforward. You give guy a twenty sack and he says he will pay you next week. Next week comes and either he pays you and all is well, or he doesn't, and you eat the twenty bucks or go crazy and do something stupid. Either way, from a financial standpoint, it is very simple even if the personal drama is not. In the long haul though, there are more factors at play. For instance, losing money on a float in the long haul can be much more complicated and not as painful.
To illustrate what I mean, here is a scenario; You have a friend that knows a lot of people that buy marijuana. But your friend is broke, and cannot afford to purchase marijuana. You float him a half ounce, and he gets rid of it in an afternoon. Again, for some reason the friend does not possess the wisdom and foresight to save up enough money for a half ounce, but can easily find four friends looking for an eighth. So you keep floating to this friend everyday for a 30 day period. Assuming you make 20 bucks per half ounce that you sell to him, you just made 600 bucks off this friend in a month. However, at the end of the month, the friend totally flakes on you, and you never see him again. To many non-veterans, they would see this as a bad idea from the start, you just got jacked for a half ounce. However, a veteran marijuana dealer will point out that even with the lost half ounce, you still made a lot of money off of that one customer. Of course you still want the money for the delinquent half ounce, but in the long haul, it was a worthwhile investment. Now multiply that by 'X' customers, and you see how the big picture works out. Many large retail companies actually WANT to have some delinquent customer credit accounts, because it shows to them that they are saturating the market, and making more money in the long haul than if they had just kept their money with no risk.
Which leads into my next point; recovering outstanding debts is a craft that every marijuana selling veteran needs to harness. Most people out there have a knee-jerk reaction when they think about someone that owes them money. 'I'm going to crush their face if I don't get my money by the first,' is what a lot of people's first reaction is. However, a marijuana selling veteran needs to learn to quell this reaction, and think long term. If you go and crush someone's face over a couple of ounces, chances are, you are going to get arrested, charged with a felony, and will pay dearly with cash and freedom. Was that really worth it in the end? I guarantee I go to someone's jail cell in that situation and say, 'Hey, I'd charge you two ounces to have all this go away,' and they would jump at that opportunity in a heartbeat. Look at that dead debt that way. No amount of money or marijuana is worth having a clean criminal record and freedom.
Now that is not to say that you should just sit by and do nothing while people flake on your funds. That is bad for business. There are some things that can work without having to take it to the extreme. First, you have to take a subjective view of your situation; is this money gone, or is there a chance that you can get it back. If you know that you are f'd (never mind the conversation of why did you front it to them in the first place), there is no point in beating a dead horse or crying over spilled milk or whatever old school saying you prefer to use. Just deal with it, and move on with your life. However, if there is a chance that you can get it back, but all means try. Maybe the person isn't paying because someone flaked on them too, or maybe they are just waiting for a paycheck, or maybe they want to pay you but they are scared that you are going to rage on them. No matter what the reason, communication is key. It will make you feel more comfortable to know what is going on, it will communicate to the flaker that all you want is to get this figured out, and it will result in a higher probability of getting paid.
Letting time go by, and not communicating, will only tell the flaker that you don't really care about it, and that they got off scott-free. If you know that they can pay, but they just simply refuse to do so because they don't realize how business works, then there are a couple things that I liked to do to people back in the day which was much more passive aggressive, yet was effective in the long haul. First and foremost, tell EVERYONE of your mutual friends that the person flaked. Tell them early, and tell them often. No matter what the flaker tells people, they don't like being known as a flaker. It eats at their conscience. Also, it black lists them to not only the people you told, but also the people they tell. It's like a 'Scarlet letter' for marijuana sales.
Another tactic is to constantly tell the flaker (via text, phone call, face to face, etc) about the super awesome nugs that you have. When you get that top shelf batch in stock, make sure to tell the flakers first. Chances are they won't even respond, but it reminds them that if they would just come correct, they could be getting in on those nugs. There were many times back in the day where someone would owe me money, but they wanted my nugs, so they would go through a third party. Yes, the flaker was getting their nugs in the end, but they would have to pay an extra tax, and get the bottom of the bag nugs instead of the top shelf nugs that I showed them. All the while, they are thinking in their minds that if they would just even up, they could get back to smoking at the level they had grown accustomed to. If you have the best nugs for the best price, time will bring you your money back. I never hold my breath for the flaker to come to this logical conclusion, because after all they had the nearsighted vision to get into the mess in the first place. However, it's much better than myself looking at an assault charge and still not getting my money. Like I said, it takes craft, but it has been my experience that I get more stale debts recovered with honey, than with the whoopin' stick.
There is one enemy that every veteran marijuana dealer must face; father time. When a marijuana dealer is first starting out, jackers and narcers are the biggest enemies that they face. Then it becomes competition from other dealers. But eventually, marijuana sales becomes routine, and you have been selling to the same people for so long that they don't even know anyone else to get it from, so competition is no longer an issue. You trust them, and they trust you, so jacking and narcing is no longer an issue. However, father time then starts eroding your business. People quit smoking pot for a variety of reasons (jail, kids, spouses, move away, morality stances, etc).
As these customers go away, replenishing them becomes harder and harder as you get older. You no longer go to the places that you used to find new customers at, such as house parties, school, bars, etc. Selling marijuana becomes harder too because the people your age are veterans that don't buy dubs any more. They are financially savvy and they want to purchase an O every payday at a good deal to make the dollars stretch (and who can blame them!). Most people that get into marijuana sales don't last more than a couple months because of smoking their profit, getting jacked, or getting busted. But the ones that last into the decade-plus category usually die off eventually due to the fact that they just get too old. They 'rode it until the wheels fall off' most people would say.
As a marijuana veteran, you need to be able to fight off extinction as long as you can. The obvious tip is to know younger people. I have often thought about taking a couple of freshman art classes at the local university, and getting a night shift at a local pizza joint. You know that there are new customers on the scene everyday, and you want to meet them. However, you have to balance that with minimizing the risk that you have fought so hard to eliminate from your life. Taking it back to the old school is the best way to do that. After all, most of your oldest customer relationships started at your school or crappy job. That hasn't changed, and probably never will. It takes more effort, but if you don't want to go the way of the dinosaur, you do what you have to do.
I will end this article with one last tip, and it builds off what I was just talking about. Fighting off extinction is a noble battle, but a marijuana dealer needs to know when to retire. This is not to say that a marijuana dealer can't move on to something else in the marijuana industry such as opening a dispensary, starting an activist organization, becoming an author, or creating a weed blog....However, what I am saying is that you don't want to be bagging up ounces for your best friend's grandchildren at their house party when you are a senior citizen...Unless of course that is your thing, at which point, GIVE ME AN OUNCE OF YOUR FINEST GRANDPA!!!!
Part 3 of a 3 part series. Check out part 1 How to Be a Marijuana Dealer — Starting Upand part 2 — How to Be a Marijuana Dealer — Growing Your Business