I love nostalgia. I like objects that require active participation like viewfinders, pogo sticks, and double Dutch skip ropes. I love the romance of striking my old typewriter, firing up the classic VW bus, or waiting for some forgotten film to get developed. I have a soft spot for Old Timey persons, places, and things.
Cannabis legalization is spreading across the globe at a time when the world is at our fingertips. One click and weed (or anything else) can be delivered to your door. But have you ever wondered how Old Timey Weed Dealers (OTWD) ever got the job done? Thirty years ago, if you wanted weed, you’d first have to find a dealer and it wasn’t easy. You’d be hanging around a lot of parks and cafes, talking to friends or friend of friends, and using a lot of covert language.
Back in the day, you’d have just as many reasons to be paranoid buying weed as you would selling it. Client and dealer often became loyal, lifelong friends. Today you’re just an order number.
Old Timey Weed Dealers
I am an OTWD. I’ve been in the business for more than 25 years. I worked Wreck Beach going beach blanket to beach blanket, then later from home with a landline.
I’ve been arrested six times and had three court trials, all resulting in acquittal. I’ve worn wigs to disguise myself and been on the run. Sometimes, a nervous client would do something unexpected like pass me money under the table, broadcasting to the whole room a drug deal was going down. I practiced discretion. For the most part I stayed out of jail. A few sleepovers but no major time.
I get nostalgic about the tenacity it took to stay in a business with the very real possibility of arrest every day. Today it all seems so silly. All those sting operations, phone taps, fake nose rings and Fu Manchu moustaches.
My goal for this column was to interview other OTWD with more than 20 years in the business. Without cellphones, computers, store fronts, or e-transfers, these pioneers carved out a path. I began to wonder if us OTWD are akin to wild ocean fish desperately trying not to be farmed, a group of righteous rebels being led to the obsolete slaughter. So, I drew up a questionnaire and I asked a few OTWDs to answer some questions.
Pops: age 65, male
Pops is in his 28th year as a weed dealer. His story begins in a film production office where he worked on a short documentary about medical marijuana. He’d heard about all the sick folks trying to access decent marijuana to alleviate their medical ailments. Sometimes these folks, so desperate, bought from homeless kids who’d mix up oregano and quick stir into small baggies to make a buck.
“It was not easy to come by good ganja 28 years ago” he insists.
Pops began selling weed out of his film production office. Clients came through word of mouth only. They were being referred to him by a fearless female activist who was lobbying legal marijuana access for AIDS patients during the time. In the beginning, his clients were 90 percent medical users.
Read also: Catching the Cannabis Beverage Wave
Never arrested, he tells a vaudevillian tale about a sting operation complete with a phone tap and an undercover female officer, wig and all, who tried to bait him into a sale on the street in front of his office. He wasn’t fooled, but he no longer liked talking on the phone.
At the height of his operation, he was seeing an average of 100 people a week. Now he says he might see 20, which is why he is considering retirement.
I asked him why he was still in the business 28 years later. “I’ve met the most incredible people and found a lot of joy in the work. Everything got very comfortable,” he said.
Ms. Sunshine: age 49, female
Ms. Sunshine is in her 22nd year of weed dealing. It all started for her in a thrift shop. Ms. Sunshine was a professional thrifter, buying and selling vintage items to supplement her income, when she went to work for Madam B, who owned a very hip thrift store. So hip, it sold weed out of the back room. Here, Ms. Sunshine learned her the craft.
She’s had two arrests and releases in her history. Once at a concert, where she panicked then passed over an ounce of rolled joints to cops threatening arrest. They took the weed and walked away, typical at the time. Her second arrest came through a sting operation of some hilarity at Madam B’s thrift store; someone ratted them out.
The next night, Madam B and Ms. Sunshine were changing some window displays after hours when six cops arrived at the front door, hands already on their guns, declaring “you are both under arrest.” They had a warrant to search. Both ladies were serious hoarders and used the bathroom to store stacks of old clothing. The cops searched in vain through seasons of dresses and curtains stacked upon more dresses and curtains for weed that had been removed the night before. She said all they found was the hash cutting knife. In the end, they left and that was that. The ladies resumed business the very next day, only now they were paranoid the cops had left hidden mics in the store, so they began doing all their business silently by passing notes.
All Ms. Sunshine’s weed clientele came through her boss, and when Madam B passed away she was gifted the business, which she still runs today.
At the height of their operation they were seeing 40 or more customers a week. Now she says she sees around 15.
When asked why she is still in the business today she responds, “I don’t know much else because it feels like it’s feeding me. I like it. I feel I am providing a good service.
But you live with lying. You lie about what you do. You have to create a story for it and you have to live with lies that can spill over.”
Buddy: age 50, male
Buddy writes, “I began hustling dimes and grams at 15. So, I reckon I’ve been dealing for 35 years. I initially started dealing to offset the cost of my smoking habit.”
That is some habit at 15, Buddy! Very impressive!
He gives a heartfelt response when I asked him why he still deals. “I love getting high and getting people high. When I decided to move from street hustling to getting a location to deal out of and take it more seriously, I started with three rules. Always have the best product. Sell your product for a fair, non-greedy price.
And always be available for your clients… Most of my clients are like my extended family. We’ve gotten to know each other over the years and I truly love them all. I’ve been able to make decent money and make peoples’ lives better.”
Then I asked how dealing changed since he started?
“The biggest change I’ve seen in the business is the advent of legalization and the sudden onslaught of capitalist minded people invading the industry with nothing in mind but money and opening up dispensaries all over the place.”
Buddy has been arrested three times for selling weed to undercover cops. The fourth time he was arrested was a bit more animated. “The police bashed the door to my crib down and came in hard with guns out. It was quite a terrifying event.” To date he has three trafficking convictions.
Buddy’s current customer base averages 50 per week, but in the past he ran places that would see “hundreds of customers a week.”
My interviews painted a very different idea of what the black market really is. Like my friend Dana Larsen says, “Who is the black market? It’s probably your neighbor or a friend, maybe it’s your auntie or an uncle.”
“We will not be farmed. We want to swim free.” -Watermelon “OTWD Extraordinaire”
Honey Pot & Pistachio Crusted Halibut with a side of Asparagrass
Preheat your oven to 350°
- Fresh halibut
- 2 grams shake flour
- ½ Tbsp. coarse sea salt
- 1/3 cup honey
- ½ cup of shucked and chopped pistachios
- Garnish (I used sea asparagus)
- 1 sheet of parchment paper
- ½ bulb chopped garlic
- ¼ cup of butter
- 1 gram of shake flour
- 20 shoots of asparagus
- Put parchment paper on a cookie sheet to lay your beautiful halibut on.
Gently rub it with the coarse sea salt and set aside for a moment.
- In a small saucepan toast your shake flour. It is important here to watch because you don't want your shake to burn but you do want it to turn a bit brown. Once that happens mix in your honey and saute on low for 3 minutes.
- Crust the top of your halibut with the chopped pistachios first, then pour the honey mixture over the top, covering the whole fish.
- Bake on 350 for 20 minutes.
- While that is baking, toss your butter, shake and garlic into a sauce pan and when that starts sizzling a bit add your asparagus tips. Cook as desired. I like mine still crunchy and bright green. The longer you cook them the softer and browner they will get.
- Dinner is now ready for you and those you love.