By Michael E. Miller
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"No one is doing less of anything," Sgt. Castro scoffs. "You'd be surprised how many people are growing throughout different neighborhoods in Miami-Dade. The police aren't going to get to most of them." In fact Castro says there is no strategy that can be applied to weeding (pun intended) out pot growing or dealing, like there is for other drugs. "The wealth of our resources goes into fighting cocaine and Ecstasy trafficking primarily," he explains. Besides, it's hard to infiltrate the new pot rings. He notes their fraternal and social structure as obstacles for police intelligence, where independent distributors and their buddies take the place of the organized criminals who run most other rackets with a high per-capita markup. As Castro mentioned, cops depend on tips from neighbors (not FPL, as many believe) and occasional police helicopter sweeps of suspected areas using infrared sensors called Fleers, which detect heat from growers' lamps, to find pot houses. Even that is not enough to obtain a search warrant, though. Their best aid comes from the complacency of the growers themselves. "One guy we had an eye on came out of his house smoking a joint and had marijuana on the front seat of his car, giving us enough reason to go into his house; half of it was partitioned off for growing," Castro explains.
Last March, according to Castro, Metro-Dade Police officers busted a hydroponics lab that took up a full two-story house off West Kendall Drive. The neighbors grew suspicious when the scent of flowering pot plants began causing contact highs -- even local pets were acting goofy. When the police came to check, the owner was watering his lawn. An officer approached just to ask questions, not enter the home. The man pushed the cop to the ground and ran into the house, escaping through the back. Police followed and found over 150 plants.
Razz believes there isn't much the police can do to stop pot growing or selling because of the profit margins involved. And he keeps the profit coming by using conventional marketing and wholesaling methods for his unconventional business. Sometimes Razz's inventory will dry, and Kiki's harvest won't be ready on time, but clients still need weed. Razz will refer them to other dealers he knows for the time being (usually kids who bought enough from him to sell some later, not real rivals). He doesn't worry about losing customers, because his weed is so good -- Kiki's green thumb almost always produces funk bud, luscious "haze" or "northern lights" sprung from Cannibis Cup seeds brought back from Amsterdam by friends. Razz never has dirty "shwag" (junk smoke) for sale. He says a lot of other dealers will buy dank or premature pot at a discount and sell it at a full retail price, but they don't keep loyal customers. Some dealers increase the weight of their stash by spraying it down with water or fruit juice (which enhances fragrance), so customers pay more for less. Razz advertises untampered merchandise. Kiki uses a meticulous curing method, rotating buds through aeration and incubation periods for as long as two weeks after they're cut, ensuring dense, crystal-covered buds. Razz also emphasizes convenience when he sells, never putting his buyers on a mission to cap; he's reliable, serves quality, and his transactions are no-hassle -- so what could be bad?
Whenever he "re-ups" after dry spells, he throws telemarketing campaigns, calling up his regulars and letting them know a new shipment has arrived. He's like a store manager who strives for customer satisfaction, and Kiki is the manufacturer, determined to put out a product of the highest quality. "When you have the best bud in town and a dealer who knows enough reefer aficionados to sell to?" Kiki offers.
Razz compares street value to wholesale prices for pot like the Nightly Business Report. Prices vary from state to state but Florida, thanks to so many local suppliers, has relatively low-cost numbers for potent marijuana compared to places like the Midwest, where growing conditions outside are difficult and most of the pot is imported from the West Coast or the South. An ounce of top-shelf krypie in St. Louis, where it's called "kind" bud, might have anywhere from $50 to $150 of tax applied to it, selling for up to $450, according to regional price listings on marijuana.com. "Even when I travel to Gainesville or Tallahassee, I'll add as much as twenty percent tax to bags I sell. They just don't have a lot of krypie around and they get tired of 'regs,'" Razz explains. "Regs" is traditional grass grown in soil, in which female plants (the ones that are smoked) are not separated from male plants, resulting in seeds that halt THC (the active ingredient) production. The high from regs is dull and numbing compared to the sharp, floating sensation given off by krypie, which tastes tangier, a much more pleasant smoke.
The Miami market has not seen price inflation like other parts of the country have. Prices have been steady for a decade (although Razz says the biggest Doral dealer has begun selling ounces for $350). Down here, the minimum unit commonly sold on the street is a gram (a nickel bag for you old-timers). Razz says a gram of potent sinsemella (which means without seeds), or krypie, goes for $15 to $20. An eighth of an ounce, or 3.5 grams, sells for $50. When someone buys a half-ounce, or 14 grams, they begin to get a little more bang for their buck, $150. "A beginning dealer, usually the younger kids, will buy an ounce for $300. When they break it up and sell it by the gram it brings back $400, making $100 on top of that $300 investment," Razz says. "Now when you move up to capping a quarter-pound [four ounces] for $1000 you can make up to $600 profit, so it pays to buy more. Your relationship with your supplier helps too."