This morning I talked with a benevolent drug dealer. Lest you think this is a play on words, it’s not. We’re talking genuine drug dealer here. He sells pot, hash, cocaine, crack, and a small variety of other substances.
Benevolent? You betcha.
His goal is to either get his customers off drugs or at least get them using responsibly.
And he’s having pretty good success. On the latter one anyway. In the past year he said that 12 of his customers have gone from irresponsible, jobless, heavy drug users, to something much better. 3 have stopped drug use altogether and 9 have quit everything but pot which they smoke only moderately (though he said in a couple of cases moderate is in the eyes of the smoker.)
All of them have begun taking more responsibility for their lives. 10 have had jobs, 8 are currently employed, and every one who’s unemployed is looking. 4 of them have started taking responsibility for their children, 3 for the first time since they were born.
He said every single one of them is focused on improving their lives and that of their families.
But why a drug dealer?
“Not more than one or two of these would ever have even talked or listened to anyone from any kind of organization. They talk and listen to me.”
He started by selling his dope for slightly less than other dealers. Today, partly due to pressure from who he gets his stuff from, he sells for about the same as others. He has a steady supply of customers though, probably about 40 regulars. “I’m not worried about losing customers, for every one that I get to cut their use, 2 more come.”
He doesn’t push redemption on anyone. If someone becomes a regular customer he’ll let them know that there are options that he can help them with. From there it’s up to them to ask him for help. Well, sort of.
Similar to how my wife weaned me off of whole milk by suddenly buying only 2%, then 1%, and finally skim, he very slowly weans some of his customers off of heavy use. “It only works for about half though.” He says fairly unemotionally. He’s not underhanded about it, he just tells them that he thinks their use is getting out of control and that he doesn’t want to lose them as a customer so how about buying and using just a little less.
“If I wasn’t here they’d all be buying from someone else so I’m not increasing drug use any. And I’ve helped a couple of dozen folks who probably wouldn’t have been helped otherwise.”
Let’s not fool ourselves though. I don’t think many of the folks he’s helped are people most of us would want around our kids. They haven’t become angels and I doubt most of them would even be candidates for Curtis Sliwa’s Guardian Angels. But they’re all doing much better than they were before. They’re less likely to commit any real crimes (as opposed to personal vice), they’re productive instead of welfare expenses, and it sounds like, as imperfect as they are, that some are becoming parents to their children which means that their kids will be less likely to become social problems.
This isn’t a perfect solution and certainly not as successful as our drug war that’s so effective in keeping drugs off our streets in the first place.