John Hardin / @ 7:10 a.m. / Op-Ed

HARDIN: Drug Dealers I Have Known


One of the things I despise most about the War on Drugs is the people you have to associate with to find weed on the black market. I’ve spent a lot of time in my life hanging out with people I would have rather not known in order to buy pot. When I was in high school, I used to get weed from a guy who lived in a run-down farmhouse behind a gas station. He seemed like a cool guy and I wanted to like him. I thought the colorful bantam chickens that ran around the yard, and that he cared for, made him more endearing.

At the time, I thought cockfighting was as arcane and anachronistic as bear-baiting. Then, one time, I visited his place and he made me wait to watch him spar two roosters. He put the two roosters on the ground in the corner of the barn. They immediately became aggressive and attacked each other in a flurry of feathers and kicks. Within a couple of minutes, one of the roosters had punctured the other rooster’s lung with a kick of his hind foot spur. The injured rooster coughed and spat blood.

The guy separated the two birds before the injured bird died, but not before killing my buzz and my appetite. This was the only guy I knew who sold weed at the time. The last time I visited him, he had the ugliest dog I had ever seen chained to a tree in the front yard. The dog barked ferociously. He told me it was a “pit bull.” I had never seen one before. I hoped I would never see one again. By this time he still sold weed but was more into coke, and he was the first person to offer to sell me cocaine.

After high school, I got my own place, a room, in Akron, Ohio, near Akron U, and started my first cannabis garden. I’ve mostly grown my own weed ever since, but like most people I’ve had to move several times, or for other reasons found it impractical to grow at times.

For a while I bought weed from an older biker in Akron. His place was almost a drive-through. You had to get out of your car and go knock on the door, but once you stepped inside it was strictly business. You told him what you wanted, gave him your money, and he pointed you towards a microwave oven, in which sat a bowl of quarter-ounce bags of weed.

I wanted to like the guy because he had weed, but his priorities were all wrong, from my perspective. He had a brand new big TV, front and center, but only a shitty stereo, in the corner, and no good records. Artwork on the wall featured almost naked, unnaturally top-heavy women posing on unnaturally clean machines. This despite the fact that he shared the home with his wife and school-age daughter. It seemed like a pitiful situation to me. He had a brand new Harley while I walked to work to my job as a busboy, and I gave him at least a quarter of my weekly earnings for a while. Still, I felt sorry for the guy. 

There was a time when I got weed from gaunt, hollow, hard-looking man who visited my home. He would invariably arrive wearing a long-sleeve flannel shirt, unbuttoned, and would use one hand to hold up the bottom of the T-shirt he wore underneath, forming a pouch over his sunken belly. He’d come in, look around furtively, sit down, and then open up that pouch into his lap, revealing a jumble of prescription bottles, plastic baggies and cash.

He always seemed disorganized and paranoid, and tried to up-sell me on narcotics and coke. He told me how fun they were. I never felt tempted. He seemed to like those drugs himself, and to me he did not look well, and he did not seem fun. I remember being eager for him to leave. He seemed to think the cops were after him, and I sure didn’t want them to find him in my place.

Then, for a little while, I got weed from a guy who lived with his wife and three kids in a two-bedroom apartment in a subsidized housing project. We hung out in one of the bedrooms, which had been converted into a sick hip-hop recording studio fully decorated in Gangsta. One room packed full of high-tech gadgets and dripping with bling; abject poverty crying in the next room. It creeped me out.

Not everyone I got weed from was that bad, but those are the memorable ones. Mostly, the pot dealers I knew were simply more acquisitive, materialistic and conventional than I am. They like weighing things on scales, and measure values in grams, ounces and pounds. I feel silly performing weird religious rites over a commodity, so I hardly ever weigh the pot I grow and I value other things, like character, hard work and creative originality more than stuff.

To be fair, I did, for a little while, get weed from a delightful and inspiring guy I knew in Boston. I don’t consider him a drug dealer, because I had to give him money, up-front, before he could go and get weed for me. He was a classically trained musician who had played oboe in the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra for a while. When I knew him, he made his living by busking in the Boston T, playing dixieland jazz on the saxophone.

He was an old guy when I knew him, but I found him delightful company, and we always had plenty to talk about. He was spry, witty and animated, and he loved to paint. He always impressed me with his sensitivity, intelligence and compassion. He was a fantastic player who loved what he did. Still is and does, I hope. His band occasionally played fancy shindigs for the Boston elite. “Squares” he called them — really. He’s the kind of guy that made marijuana famous, and he’s as good as it gets on the black market.

I bought California sinsemilla from all of these people. This is what the black market looks like, and if you grow weed these are your distributors. It’s ugly and it’s dangerous and it’s not exactly the kind of place you want your kids to hang out. There is nothing cool about being a drug dealer, and most of the drug dealers I have known have not been very cool people. We need safe access to marijuana at prices that put the black market out of business. It’s time to legalize marijuana and end this creepshow once and for all.

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John Hardin writes at Like You’ve Got Something Better to Do.


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