The Gazette (London, ON Edu.)
UWO Drug Dealers
The Gazette talks to campus drug dealers about what they're
moving and how much money they’re raking in
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Jim* is a fourth-year engineering student at Western who has sold drugs for the past four years. He makes approximately $50,000 per year, with about 40 per cent of his revenue coming from marijuana sales and the remaining 60 per cent coming from drugs like cocaine and ecstasy.
Roughly one per cent of Canadians use cannabis daily, approximately three per cent use it weekly and almost four per cent smoke once or more weekly.
In 2002, roughly three million Canadians aged 15 or older admitted to using cannabis at least once in the last year.
Jim sells around 32 pounds of marijuana a month, retailing between $1,800 to $2,500, depending on fluctuations in supply and demand.
Jim doesn’t feel bad about selling to people dependent on drugs.
“As long as the world continues to sell dreams and hopes to people and as long as those dreams will never be realized, people will use drugs,” Jim says.
Despite its illegal status, an estimated 30 per cent of Canadians have used marijuana at least once. The growing number of marijuana users has spawned a large underground market.
Jim says his business is lucrative because the trade’s high-risk nature reduces competition.
Since decriminalization would let the government regulate marijuana sales and provide it revenue, Jim believes decriminalization would hurt his profits.
Dr. Evelyn Vingilis, a professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Western, said it’s an interesting coincidence marijuana consumption has increased since the government started considering decriminalization.
In recent decades, many people have spoken in favour of decriminalization, which is the reduction or removal of marijuana’s criminal status while retaining other forms of non-criminal regulation.
However, Jim is confident decriminalization will never happen.
“By keeping drugs illegal, law enforcement agents are investing in themselves and their own growth,” Jim says. “If everything is legal you wouldn’t need half the number of police out there.
“The amount of money spent on drug investigation is highly misallocated.”
Dominic Cramer, president of the Toronto Hemp Company, agrees. He believes prohibiting marijuana causes far more problems and harm than marijuana use ever could.
Cramer feels decriminalization would give state officials more control over a market they currently have no control over, making it easier for them to keep marijuana away from children and prevent people from driving under the influence.
“[These are] things that we should really be caring about,” Cramer says.
Constable Dan O’Reilly of the London Police Service disagrees. He believes the level of police work needed in marijuana investigations wouldn’t decrease if it was decriminalized or legalized.
“Marijuana isn’t the issue that we, as police, face,” O’Reilly says.
Theft, robbery and other crimes are the bigger problems, as people tend to commit them to support their addictions, he adds.
Marijuana consumption is probably the drug being consumed the most in London, Constable O’Reilly says, but he adds cocaine and crack-cocaine use is increasing.
But what about drugs that help you study?
Bob*, a fourth-year psychology student, also deals drugs on campus. He sells Dexadrine (DEX) and Ritalin, drugs commonly used by people who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
He says the main difference between the two is that Ritalin’s effects last six hours while DEX’s can last for up to 12 hours.
He buys DEX pills for around $3 each and sells them for $10 or $15 — sometimes even $20 per pill during exams.
He says DEX helps him retain everything he studies and using it has improved his grades significantly.
Bob describes using DEX as being “in a tunnel and nothing else matters.”
“I did not move; I sat there for four hours and actually enjoyed doing work,” he adds.
Although the drug is only obtainable by prescription, Bob buys his supply while on vacation in countries where he can get these drugs illegally without prescription.
He’s also supplied by people who have prescriptions. He says some people will trade their DEX for other drugs like marijuana.
Bob says the drug is in high demand because it’s so effective.
“One guy always wants all the DEX and doesn’t want anyone else to have it and get an advantage over him,” Bob says.
Taking one DEX isn’t detrimental, says Dr. Michael Reider, head of the clinic of pharmacology at Western’s children’s hospital.
However, Reider says there are risks associated with taking large amounts, which students using it for an academic advantage likely do. He says it fuels metabolic engines and increases one’s heart rate, adding constant use can have damaging long-term effects on the heart.
Also, statistics show mental health problems often co-exist with substance dependence. The Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) found 15 per cent of alcohol-dependent people had suffered from depression recently. For people dependent on illicit drugs, the prevalence of depression was 26 per cent.
According to the CCHS, the exact relationship between substance abuse and mental illness is unclear. The study said mental disorders may promote or sustain substance dependence and substance use may exacerbate mental disorders.
Betty* is a third-year business and management studies student who smokes roughly five grams of marijuana every day.
Betty says she smokes “because it gets me high and relaxes me.”
“[Marijuana is] kind of like my Prozac,” she says. “When I’m not high, I’m high-strung and bitchy.”
Betty admits she relies on the drug to keep her happy, but she firmly believes that’s “all that matters.”
*For legal reasons, some names have been changed.
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