By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Francisco Alvarado
By Tim Elfrink
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Tim Elfrink
The kitchen counter is covered in green. Two pounds of neon-bright, high-grade reefer next to its equivalent in cash, stacks of twenties totaling $8000. But three young men and one young lady, all white-Hispanic college students, are growing a bit apprehensive. The bud counts twenty grams short. "Razzmatazz," the dealer, cocks a doubting sneer as he lets the buyer in the $80 Armani T-shirt know "when that was weighed out before you came, it was on point." But the Armani guy's electronic Tanita scale doesn't lie; the "judge" reads 276 grams, just a little off. Still, for this price, no one takes a slack bag. A tense discussion ensues about appropriate compensation. Fortunately the girl finds the derelict nugget on the floor before the boys get rowdy. It must have fallen ... "Sure," Razzmatazz quips. The deal is done, everyone's happy. Razz counts his money and instructs the buyers to be on their way: "Get the fuck out of my house," he snarls in jest, sort of. The bunch packs into a brand-new Ford Explorer parked outside the West Kendall home and speeds recklessly away, not giving the young kids playing on the quiet neighborhood street much time to move out of the way.
With that over, Razzmatazz prepares to spark a Cheech and Chong blunt not much smaller than a Little League baseball bat. He made some money and has about an hour to relax, puff on herb by the pool before his mom shows up. He offers me a toke but I decline. "Pussy," he disses me.
I wonder out loud if the time will come when Razz sets his sights on a career that's a little less illegal. He lets me know he intends to do something worthwhile with his life, not just deal. The 22-year-old Christopher Columbus High graduate from an upper-middle-class family takes music engineering classes at Miami-Dade Community College, helps around the house, and cooks for his two little sisters when his mother is away -- which is a lot (she works). He wants to be a sound engineer or concert promoter in the future. In the meantime, he sells pot.
It ain't Lucy & Desi anymore
The images of drug dealers in popular culture are often limited to hard-knock street thugs or kingpin drug lords -- either a former hustler like Ice-T, the platitude-pusher with the urban drawl, or made men in Petrocelli suits and platinum bracelets, like John Gotti or Willie Falcon. But selling drugs isn't always motivated by survival or criminal ambition, especially when dealing marijuana. So don't leave out privileged and middle-class suburban youth, like these kids from the pleasant environs of Kendall and Coral Gables, decamped from inner-city pressure all their lives. They sell pot for the high times, and the easy money ($40,000 to $60,000 a year), and the coolness of it -- not to mention the convenience of zipping only a quarter of a mile in Dad's Jeep Cherokee to do business.
"Kicking" pot also does wonders for the preppie dealers' popularity, whether it's welcome or not. Given that a friend with weed is a friend indeed, dealers find themselves surrounded by tagalongs. That gets old quick. "My house turned into a hang for natural-born losers looking for a free high," Razz complains. "My girlfriend eventually sent my 'satellites' to hell; my mom might've, but she's never home."
That take-charge girlfriend, we'll call her "Double L," shows up at Razz's place as he credits her disposition, and right on time to finish off the dack. Double L is just off work, a receptionist at a downtown marketing firm, and she's soon joined by a friend who's on her way to her job, tutoring little kids at an afterschool program in Kendall. They take turns on the jibber's fumes. Two young ladies dressed in pantsuits, carefully inhaling: enough to make Bill Clinton blush. Double's friend coughs a bit, giggles, and declares herself ready to go educate (and tolerate) her group of fourth-graders. (Apparently anytime is right for getting high.) "We don't really party on pot," Double explains. "We drink when we go out and smoke when there's nothing to do, or when we want to do nothing. This is a downtime drug."
There's always plenty of downtime for potheads (work is definitely downtime). When they need an "adhesive" (as in Band-Aid) for boredom, it's Razz they consult. Strangely enough, with almost as many girls smoking, there aren't as many buying. Razz attributes that to the guys who willingly spark them up. "Ask my girlfriend when was the last time she or her friends gave me money for all the weed they smoke," Razz implores. Double doesn't waste time letting him know that "you have to get me high so I can deal with all your bullshit," followed by a sideswiping stare. That's the end of that. Razz makes plain that "the people I flip bags to are mostly guys who come by every other day for a half-eighth [of an ounce] so they can go home, get high, play video games, and jerk off. I wouldn't say they're losers or anything, 'cause I like them, they always have exact change." And they're loyal customers who value the convenience of an "around-the-way" (neighborhood) hook-up.
Suburban Miami-Dade is not considered a hotbed of narcotic activity, but it's not Langley, Virginia either. Young entrepreneurs continually feed the demand for drugs in communities such as Kendall and Coral Gables, places where users can readily afford and always want the "good stuff." Guys like Razzmatazz secure themselves enough dough and free headstash to keep their finances straight and minds twisted. He long ago quit his "real" job -- working as a real estate office assistant -- though he occasionally takes temp gigs to explain the abundance of disposable income. He now nets between $3000 and $4000 a month from serving chronic. He hangs at home, dealing between classes, then spends a few hundred a week on new Kenneth Cole shoes or suede jackets along with what he blows in South Beach clubs or at Coconut Grove watering holes. But he realizes, "I gotta start saving."
Razz's income comes almost entirely from moving pot. He only sells "krypie," a potent, limey, seedless version of weed likened to bright-green kryptonite. "This is what killed Superman," Razz points out matter-of-factly. He has a stoner's sense of humor, reciting half-wit observations amusing mostly to himself. Taking advantage of his mother's long work hours, Razz sells from their home. He considers it much safer than meeting buyers on the street. He says cops are on the lookout for transactions between suspicious people at places like gas stations and shopping malls.
He sees up to ten people daily whenever he's stocked, which is most of the time (a week or two every couple of months is devoted to replenishing his stash and cooling off). On the days he's available, he moves between one and two ounces. That's $300 to $600 on an average day, $100 to $200 of that profit, and mostly selling $15 gerbers (grams) or $25 dollar half-eighters (half-eighth of an ounce). Lately, though, he's been kicking large amounts, like today's transaction, cutting back the profit margin but easing up on the hassles that come with nickel-and-diming his inventory. He says he could easily move twice as much, but believes "the more [indiscriminately] you sell, the more strange people you have calling you in the middle of the night or showing up at your door. And too many customers ask for a "spot," saying they'll owe me whenever they're short; before I know it, hundreds of dollars are on the street, a lot of which I won't get back." So Razz is more careful now: "I used to have anyone come over and buy; now, if I don't know you, you better come with someone I do, or we can't do business."
Friends and regulars only then, though today's deal involved friends of friends. He recounts the time when a buyer, a thirtysomething Cuban refugee with a teenage girlfriend, came for "a lot of pot." The man, who'd bought from Razz before, had someone knock on the front door in the middle of the deal. When Razz went to answer, no one was there. Back in his bedroom, the Cuban, his jailbait, and a pound and a half of smoke worth $6000 were gone. His sliding glass floor-to-ceiling window was open.
That didn't make him sweat nearly as much as the time someone broke in, trying for the whole stash. Razz came home to a busted door (there was no alarm), and found his closet empty, nothing taken but bud. His judgment was clearly clouded by frustration and a daily dope fix, because he foolishly decided to call the cops. A police officer arrived about the same time his mom did, and he concluded the burglars likely broke in to steal drugs. Only a lack of evidence prevented Razz from being charged, but now the police knew about him.
His mother wasn't surprised by the hypothesis -- what her son does for a living isn't the best-kept secret. Many of his visiting "pals" pass by for only minutes at a time. And the names of those who owe him money, the ones he remembers anyway, go up on a Fisher-Price chalkboard in his room, along with how much they owe and for how many grams: Chacho, $50 -- 3.5 grams; Narciso -- $100 -- 7 grams. Not to mention undisguised smoking sessions even when she's home and bitching. While she chastises his "job," no one, not even Razz, remembers her ever telling him to stop. She knows a thing or two about pot dealers: Her husband (Razz's father) -- we'll call him Julio -- is in federal prison in Butner, North Carolina doing a long bit; he was busted driving more than $150,000 worth of Happy Relaxin' Puffin' Stuff cross-country in a Winnebago, à la ex-Dallas Cowboy Nate Newton. The pot, evidently, never falls too far from the plant.
In the name of the father
Razz emulates his father, an eccentric man who played guitar in an acid-rock band in the Seventies; had a room full of stuffed endangered animals, including a spotted owl, a grizzly bear, and a Florida panther; and handed Razz a surprise on his seventeenth birthday: a quarter-pound of grass for him and his friends to float out on. Razz says his father, who's been at Butner for five years, blames himself for what his son does, but won't come down on him. No one in his family will. Razz is the man of the house now; he says that fact dawned on him when he had to sell off his dad's animal collection to black-market buyers arranged by "friends" of the family. The huge house they were living in, two stories on an acre and a half in East Kendall, was leased out to a couple for "financial necessity" after Julio went down hard. (Ironically the couple who leased it used part of the space to grow weed, something the family found out when cops -- needling them about it -- told them about the eventual bust.) Fortunately family finances have stabilized. Razz's new home is a more modest but polished three-bedroom house. His mother runs a thriving travel agency now, as opposed to the failed attempts at legitimate work she and her husband had tried before. But Razz will drop a grand on her night table every now and again, no questions asked. She doesn't like to speak about any of this, in fact she wishes none of it was being written down, but she does share one thought: "What my son does with his life, I have no control over. Kids today can do what they want, they know what's right and wrong." The truth is, Razz's occupation doesn't bother her too much -- unless it invades her house.
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.
The common notion of scoring drugs still has these nice kids wandering through the inner city looking for street-corner pushers every time they want a sack. Wrong. If that were the case, there would be plenty of private-school jits getting jacked by hoods or roped by cops (both know white kids driving new rides in shit hoods aren't sociology students). "When a kid gets busted in a place like the 'zero' part of the Grove or Goulds, it's because they're looking for crack, heroin, or coke," Razz affirms. No. The deal is, nice homes, green grass (the kind that grows on lawns) are the new pot turf. Razz says he competes with "countless" dealers throughout Kendall, Coral Gables, Westchester, and South Miami, and describes them as "ordinary people who take up kicking to other ordinaries because none of them want to deal with real criminals." He remembers as a high school freshman eight years ago that "you might have to wait around for a day for good krypie or you had to find someone who was a crook, because there weren't as many people kicking as there are now." So enterprising smokers with no scruples have taken a chance of making a buck off the smokers around them -- their schoolmates, friends, and family. As they cap more, they sell to more people, so it's in the veins of the dream-clean, safe neighborhoods of America. Lotta Razzes out there.
It helps a dealer like Razz to have a friend for a grower. The usual pot "farmer" in Miami-Dade -- outside the collegiate market, according to Sgt. Castro -- is Hispanic and middle-aged. But Razz's guy is Kiki, a graduate of a prestigious prep school, Belen Jesuit, who lives on his own in South Miami and isn't very much older. Like many growers in the preppy pot market, he uses the attic in his apartment to crop pot with all the latest technology.
Kiki leads a life that's normal to the naked eye. He works a full-time job in sales, likes to hang at Tobacco Road, and has had no brushes with the law other than speeding. Unlike Razz, who, with his ghetto fade and judicious tats, hits some middle ground between clean-cut and cool, Kiki is practically J. Crew preppy, a Cuban version of Michael Keaton. He wears his hair short, shirt tucked in, and the face of his leather-strapped watch is turned under his wrist. "A real stand-up guy," Razz told me on the way to K's crib, in an attempt to sound Soprano.
In Kiki's apartment, the aroma of herb is hard to hide, even with periodic sprays of Ozium. But the place gives no hint of funny business aside from the unmistakable scent. In fact I've never seen such a tidy bachelor pad before. Up in the attic, though, he unveils the sixteen plants he is currently raising like a proud parent. Whoever says that money doesn't grow on trees has never seen a pot farm. Advances in hydroponics (indoor cultivation of plants without soil) are primarily to thank, or blame, depending on how you look at it. Hydroponics have significantly changed the way pot is grown, especially in Florida where outdoor farming has stammered and indoor growth is shooting up. The DEA lists us as one of the top five indoor-pot-producing states, based on the agency's seizures in 2001, along with Oregon, California, Kentucky (now you know where the bluegrass comes from), and Washington.
Many younger growers start off with a walk-in closet, but Kiki's attic is the suitable six-foot-five. A beginner can build a closet system capable of sustaining between eight and sixteen small plants. All he would need is a 400-watt high-pressure sodium or metal halide bulb (for simulating the sun), a ballast (miniature transformer), rock wool or buckets to grow the plants in, and a reservoir dripping system to feed them. The most expensive component would be the ballast and bulb, and they only cost $150-$200 at any electrical supply store. For a few hundred extra, growers can get fancy with the addition of PH meters to measure the growing medium's acidity ($50-$100), carbon dioxide regulators for sustaining sufficient CO2 levels ($120), and other accessories to increase yield and speed growth; the amateur can put together the basic system for about $600 at any hydroponics specialty store. Gold Coast Hydroponics on Bird Road and 71st Avenue is endorsed by the dealers I talked with, and is one of five hydroponics equipment outlets in Miami-Dade. "Just make sure you say you're growing tomatoes," Kiki warns.
He says a small system with ten to fifteen plants will yield between three and four pounds of dope in about five to six months. That's almost $16,000 for a starter system! More daring entrepreneurs rent out entire apartments or houses to grow ten or twenty times as much with multiple units using the most sophisticated hydroponics money can buy.
Kiki says profit isn't what prompted him to grow, though. He's a ferventsmoker, someone who spent anywhere from $100 to $200 on pot a week. Eight hundred a month was a rough nut on a young kid, so he began selling, and he'd hardly sold more than a few bags before he began growing. After moving out on his own a few years ago, Kiki learned "farming" through a friend with a closet full of sprouting weed. "I just wanted to smoke for free. I enjoyed sparking people up and I thought it would be cool to have a small system, but I soon cropped enough to make [real] money. So I expanded," Kiki explains.
Kiki's from a well-to-do Cuban family with a house in Coral Gables who suspect him of growing or dealing pot about as much as they think he's a terrorist. Unlike Razz, his partner in crime, he doesn't publicize his green habit, especially near his family. He almost did once, when he hid pictures of his crop in a photo album and accidentally left it on his parents' kitchen table. He hurried back to find his mom looking through the photos on the next-to-last page of the album, where unmistakable images of marijuana were stacked behind a picture of his girlfriend. "I took the album and ran, saying I was in a hurry," Kiki recalls.
It wasn't a sense of guilt that had him conniving. He wasn't sorry for the porno magazines he kept under his bed either, but he didn't leave those out for his mom to see. He doesn't think what he does now is wrong in any way other than acknowledging he's breaking the law. It's a hobby for him, a hobby that nets him about $50,000 a year, tax-free. Doesn't a young man with a college education, a job, and not another ounce of inclination toward criminal behavior find himself conflicted with the laws against his home business? He says, "No, it's a stupid law and the risks I'm willing to take. I like bud." And he smokes it. Don't get high off your own supply -- that's a line from Scarface to these guys, not a rule of thumb.
"That's the attitude plenty of young start-up pot growers and dealers have," Sgt. Castro believes. "They begin as smokers who want pot for themselves and end up with enough to sell, [and] it goes on from there. And whenever we bust these people they always try to explain that their stash is for personal use, as if that makes having a few pounds of marijuana okay," Castro says with a befuddled shrug.
You'd think dealers with such an avid affection for reefer would be idealistic on the issues surrounding decriminalization. But this isn't flower-power time. Idealism has been replaced with pragmatism and an all-about-the-Benjamins outlook. As far as revolutions go, Razz says he's "read about those in history class." Dealing is a business and smoking is a pastime for him, not a counterculture component. Besides, today's burnout doesn't always fit a particular anti-authoritarian bill: Many wear Dockers, go to church, and vote Republican, or at least intend to (like Kiki). Involving themselves politically in defense of getting high doesn't go beyond righteous chitchat while passing a joint around. Kiki believes toking "is not as harmful as the government's anti-pot hoopla says it is, but not as easy on my mind and body as I'd like it to be." Razz couldn't care less about the political state of pot smoking. Legalization would hurt his revenue anyway. Dealers don't typically apply for membership with NORML, the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws. And in regard to dope's effect on his health, Razz replies, "If I thought about how bad Big Macs are for me, I'd become a vegetarian." That reminds him -- he's got the munchies and a trip to McDonald's is in order.
Sgt. Castro admits the police's focus on stamping out harder drugs and the easy time courts often give convicted pot dealers with no criminal history has a lot to do with the amount of growing going on. He says the first-time-convicted pot dealer will not see any significant jail time. "There is a notion [current] that marijuana activity is not as bad as Ecstasy and cocaine," Castro acknowledges. DEA Public Information Officer Joseph Kilmer concurs, "The priority of law-enforcement agencies now is in fighting the trafficking of cocaine, Ecstasy, and heroin, because of the significantly higher damage these drugs do. Then comes marijuana." And they don't profile pot dealers either: Kilmer says, "There is no typeof pot dealer, it can be anyone."
Don't think the DEA isn't busting pot kickers, though. For a crime that's admittedly low on the hit list, it still gets after domestic pot growing. In 2001 the DEA seized over 30 metric tons of marijuana in Florida alone. Its Domestic Eradication Program sniffed out 551 grow sites, destroyed over 28,000 plants with an estimated value of $28.2 million. It booked 325 cultivators.
How much is actually consumed and produced in the U.S. is unknown because agents speculate that seized crops and arrested dealers make up a small portion of domestic production. But new growers pick up where the busted ones leave off. The Office of National Drug Control Policy released a study last year speculating that in 2000, Americans spent an estimated $10.4 billion to consume 1009 metric tons of marijuana. Dealers and cops on the street say that's a low-ball assumption.
New studies are saying that these dealers should have a harder time getting rid of pot. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse released a study last month estimating only 25 percent of 1000 teens polled admit to smoking marijuana. The same study says teens find pot easier to purchase than cigarettes. The study was conducted as a survey of fourteen- to seventeen-year-olds, a grouping that is misleading, considering most published reports on pot use divide younger adolescents from older ones more prone to smoking. Research by NIDA also points to a decline in pot use overall this year, but it's only down one percentage point from 49.2 percent of high school seniors who had used marijuana in 2000.
"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."
Razz says it's best to find your own grower, although that can be difficult because secrecy is the name of the dealing game. A lot of growers are willing to dispense their supply with no money down. The dealer returns the asking price to the grower minus his profit, which is basically commission. "Growers never want to go out and sell ... too risky. They find a group of people they can trust to move it," Razz says. "They employ a sales team; if you get complicated too many times, like when I got jacked, they stop answering your calls." But Kiki calls Razz back because he prefers to keep working with the same person.
"If too many people find out [about you], [then] you should stop," Kiki says, adding that he'll probably quit soon thanks to the growing numbers who know about his attic. Razz says he plans to stop selling pot too, At Some Point ... We all laugh.
"There's too much to pass up, though," Razz exults. "I know the right people, not vicious Miami Vicecriminals, but average Joes who happen to have a grow room in back of the crib and want to make some extra flow ..."
It all comes back to the smoking. There is a certain satisfaction for these guys knowing that what begins in Kiki's attic, and gets sold at Razz's front door, ends up elevating young minds around town. It's what amuses them most during a hazy session, as coughing and laughing squeeze out of their bellies and a fat dack is on the run. They share a toke for the money and the fun of being two red-eyed, stoned dealers who could pass for ordinary, upstanding citizens, because, in many ways, they are.
They enjoy a functional partnership. Kiki needs someone he trusts, and Razz, living at home, needs a grower who's careful. They go back up to Kiki's attic to survey the next harvest. Kiki guesses three weeks before it's ready. Razz wants them down as soon as possible. "Come on dog, we gotta move on this one," he exclaims, playfully shoving his grower.
"See the hairs on the plant, they're still white, not red, so stop pushing me, man," Kiki tells Razz.
"But I am the pusher man!" Razz raps while prancing out of the room. Kiki rolls his eyes. The hilarity of the moment is interrupted by the car-alarm ring of Razz's cell phone. A customer. Some kid Razz used to play baseball with: "Meet me at my crib, I'll be there in ten minutes.... Yeah, at 6:15." Since he's high as a kite and his timing sense is warped, Razz underestimates the rush-hour traffic that will make the trip from South Miami to West Kendall more like forty minutes, not ten.
When he arrives at his house, the buyer is sitting in his front yard and his mom is standing at the door. "This kid has been waiting for you but he doesn't know why he's here," his mother points out dryly.
"Come on Mom, you know why he's here," Razz replies, as the kid's face turns bright red.
"He's here to pick up a Little League bat," Razz continues. His mom doesn't find him funny, but she goes on inside, without saying a word.