By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
Like the punk who took Razz off. He turned out to be an old classmate named Bobby, who'd dropped by earlier that day to "cap," but passed when he heard Razz was going out, seeing the perfect opportunity to score free weed. Bobby was caught the same night by the cops -- he was found parked at the intersection of Coral Way and 87th Avenue, asleep at the wheel from too many Rohypnol (sedative) tablets; he had the pot, a scale, and the tools he used to break into Razz's place on the passenger seat beside him. (After a night in jail, Bobby served a few months of community service.)
Special Investigations Sgt. Manuel Castro, an officer with the Miami Police Department for 23 years, says most arrests involving marijuana fall into cops' laps -- like the Bobby case. "You'd think they'd all be careful, but they're not. The dealers assume no one notices their behavior until a suspicious neighbor reports them. We depend on a lot of outside tips, and poor decisions by offenders, for pot arrests," Castro notes. Many of these kids don't think they're getting in over their heads, until they start robbing each other. Then the seriousness of their actions can blow up in their faces.
Last February, a twenty-year-old head altar boy, Ibrahim Khoury, was allegedly fatally shot by eighteen-year-old Andres Carvajalino in Coral Gables, according to Miami Herald reports. The victim was there to protect his cousin George Khoury, the purported dealer, from shady punks. Someone should have been keeping an eye on him. The cousins met with Carvajalino and two of his friends in a lot off US 1, then tried to take off when a gun was pulled on them. The shooter, a Killian High dropout, was attempting to steal an ounce of pot worth $300. He shot Khoury through the heart, according to the reports. Carvajalino is currently on trial, the death penalty looming.
Without getting arrested or shot, Razz learned a lesson from the take-off, but he still had to make up the money he'd lost -- his grower supplies bud "on the arm" (no money up front): "I freaked out. I called him to explain that I got jacked," Razz remembers. "He just had me work it off; for two weeks I was selling pot and turning over all the profit."
It wasn't too hard. Pot is the most popular drug in suburbia. It's clean, like the kids using and selling it. Pot users smoke regularly, whereas users of designer drugs like Ecstasy, or cokeheads, or junkies, are -- on this level -- weekend warriors, according to Razz, who admits to moving some Ecstasy and mescaline once in a while. Drugs like cocaine (now called "butter") are much less in demand, and are much riskier in terms of jail time, so it doesn't make much sense to sell them. "If you want to make flow [high profits], cocaine is a good way to cash in," he admits, "but butterheads are wigged-out customers who'll call you at 5:00 a.m. Sunday morning," and that's just a drag. "And cops don't let you go after finding coke in your car like they might with pot," Razz says. He's been caught and released several times with stern lectures and warnings. He was arrested for possession once, when police found fifteen grams in his car after pulling him over for a traffic violation. That was still five grams short of felony weight, so he spent one night in jail and took part in a county "diversion" program. The program, usually optioned to first offenders, put Razz through "boring-as-hell self-help videos and group counseling." But he loved the free doughnuts.
Still none of this stops him from selling dope, at least for now. The pot supply is endless. The federal National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) tracked a steady rise in marijuana consumption by high school seniors through the Nineties, and estimated that less than a quarter of them smoked in 1992 -- the year Dr. Dre released The Chronic, his epic statement on the subject. More than a third use now (15 million between the ages of 15 and 24 nationally; 100,000 in Miami-Dade). By contrast, Sgt. Castro explains that "drugs like Ecstasy, cocaine, and the popular but banned prescription painkiller, Rohypnol, are mostly produced in the Netherlands, Colombia, or Mexico and smuggled into the U.S. When a large shipment is intercepted by agencies like the Port Authority, it affects the availability and price of the current supply." He adds that pot can be homegrown in back yards and inside houses around the U.S., so prices are stable. According to the Domestic Cannabis Eradication and Suppression Program, funded by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), over 70 percent of the marijuana sold in the U.S. is cultivated domestically.
"I think I've spoken to maybe two people who've never gotten high," Razz swears. What catches the attention of researchers is the fact that pot use increased most significantly over the past ten years among white adolescents living in suburban areas whose family incomes are in excess of $80,000 per year. NIDA says 48 percent (seven million in the U.S.; 50,000 locally) admitted to smoking in 2000, as compared to 28 percent in 1990.