“Always remember, discretion is key.”
It’s no surprise to anyone who lives in NYC that you can have pretty much anything and everything delivered. From pizza to groceries and other daily necessities, you can cut your shopping time out and just make a simple call to get what you want. They even have entire websites and apps that deal specifically with having goods delivered to your doorstep. Why not? Who has time to actually go out to the store and get things. Now, what some of you may not know is that there is a booming industry in NYC that deals specifically with delivering cannabis to your doorstep. No shady meet-ups on the corner, or trolling your neighborhood for someone who is selling this controversial plant, but a simple number to call and a couple of hours later you have 2 grams of cannabis in your hands and ready to smoke. Obviously, these groups operate outside of the law and the legality of the whole operation isn’t really in question. The curious thing is that these groups are highly organized and refer to their game as business, all with stories to tell. Jon Benito got the ins-and-outs of this specialized career.
I had met A. years ago and since then we have had many run-ins. It’s an interesting line of business and personally, I thought him to be fascinating. Now, for obvious reasons many personal details will be left out to protect A.’s identity and the ‘company’ he works for.
We met one afternoon in front of the public library on 42nd Street. The moment after we exchanged greetings he immediately said, “Come here, I want to show you something.” We walked to the south side of the corner at 41st and 5th and he began telling me about a huge reservoir built to emulate an ancient Egyptian structure before Bryant Park was put up. He began to rattle off some facts, dates, and other bits of information about the history of the reservoir. After showing me some parts of the reservoir that were left behind and worked into the façade of the library we went over to the carousel to ‘talk business.’ The air was warm and the French love songs playing over our discussion went with the zany vibe I was getting from this wiry, unassuming man who was ready to lament the specifics of his day to day. Stories of rival ‘companies,’ police, and the clients he serviced…
Jon: Start off with how you got started?
A: So, when I moved to the city I only had a couple hundred bucks, but I knew I wanted to live in NYC and when I first got here I was trying to hang out with different people. Just anyone that I knew, to just kind of establish myself and I ended up hanging out with this kid. He asked if I wanted to get delivery and I was like, “Delivery? Like food?” So, he was like, “I’m going to order pot.” So, I said ok. Long story short, the guy who came to deliver the stuff was complaining that he was starting this business but couldn’t find reliable people. I needed work. I had a part time job but it was paying nothing. So I said, “I’de love to do it. Let me get your number.”
J: How long ago was that?
A: Eight years ago now, or nine…
J: Why do you like this job? Is it the money?
A: Well, yeah! But it’s the running around the city. I’m a big history buff when it comes to this town and I like being in all the apartments. I like the views that I’ve seen which are really fantastic. I’ve seen sunsets on the Hudson from the 17th floor that I think a lot of people in my income strata don’t see. Or seeing the Chrysler building in all its glory from 38th street on the east side from the 20th floor.
All these views and stuff that I’ve seen is just really fantastic. All these cool apartments and cool neighborhoods. I know where all the good dollar slice pizza places are. I’ve become quite the tour guide because of this. It’s not just Manhattan that I got to know really well, it’s Brooklyn too!
J: Where does your company deliver?
A: We have a range that goes down to Ditmas Park, sometimes further (and Manhattan). But things expand because of gentrification. At one time we would only go as high as 125th street and now we are going to 150th street.
J: So you’re following gentrification?
A: Yeah. But no Queens, no Jersey and no Bronx.
J: Do you have regular customers?
A: Yeah, I have customers I’ve known for seven years now!
J: Take me through a day. Beginning to end…
A: My day? As a runner?
J: Let’s cover all the bases. When the company opens and you start the business day, what is the first thing that happens? And then take me from there.
A: The first thing that happens is the person who has the product and the back-up stock puts it together for the day. He usually meets up, or has someone else meet up, with the group for the day (to make sure they have what they need).
J: And that group is?
A: The runners in Manhattan. There are runners in Brooklyn but I don’t know what they do now. So, the runners meet up and they alert Dispatch that they’re done with those calls and Dispatch will give them more (calls). And they do that for hours and hours. Usually it’s a ten hour day.
J: Is it by foot?
A: Some do foot, some do bike, some do car. Some people have a driver. Then at the end of that day, when the last call comes in, there is usually a cut off time so that runners aren’t out late.
J: What time is that?
A: It depends on the service. Somewhere between ten and midnight. Then you get in contact with the person that’s doing pick up for that night. They usually take money and product from you (runners) and then you go home and that’s the end of your day. Then they go home and assess what the counts are, what we call the money. Then they give that money to the Boss. Then the next morning the Boss gets to count it!
J: Do you guys keep track of inventory?
A: When I was doing it I would keep track of what went out and what came back in order to keep a really good mental record of everything. I don’t think they do as well a job now.
J: Is this a ‘tough guy” business?
A: Yes, absolutely! At a certain point when I was running the show, people were pulling guns on my runners. There was a rival gang or company. I didn’t ever get to the bottom of it, but there were people that were making calls and laying in wait, waiting for the delivery guys to show up and would just take everything they had at gun point. Cops can also take you down. I was taken down by the cops. I was very glad when I turned around and it was the police throwing me up against the wall!
J: You were happy? Why?
A: Yeah! Because you can get killed if it’s a rival. Sometimes in Harlem I look over my shoulder more than three times.
J: What about the cops?
J: So they told you why?
A: They told me a lot of things that day, actually. About what they look for.
A: Yeah, we were talking casually. I didn’t reveal anything and they weren’t even curious about anything I was doing. They knew exactly what it was…
So they put me in their Explorer and they drove me around the block a few times for some reason. Then we went to the precinct and there was no room in the cells because there were actual criminals in there. So they handcuffed me to the outside of the cell. I’m a social individual, so I start talking and interjecting things. They looked at me at first like I was a criminal but then I said look, “Its 2008. It’s a pretty bad economy in case you haven’t noticed. I really need to do something. If you think I am some kind of arch-criminal then you have another thing coming.” So they were like, “Oh we know guys like you.”
J: So they bust people regularly?
A: Yeah, all the time! They were being really cordial and I think because I was, they were being really gentle with me. They took the money, but they gave it back. It took like six months to get it back.
J: What about the product?
A: The product I never saw again.
J: What about court?
A: I went to court and I was nervous about going. But I went and the Judge threw it out!
J: What were the formal charges?
J: Just possession?
A: Because it said that the police had indicated that there was a strong smell of marijuana emanating from the bag.
A: When he said there was a strong odor emanating from my bag the Judge slammed the manila folder and said, “I’ve heard enough.” Gave me 6 months of ECD Probation, which just means don’t get in trouble for six months and you’re good.
J: That’s crazy. So… anything else you want people to know?
A: Well… Everybody smokes! Everybody! There’s finance people. There’s artists in SoHo studios. There’s dead beat kids in the LES. There’s older gay men in Midtown with beautiful apartments. Retired city workers with grandchildren. Concert pianists. Everybody.
J: So, there is no typical customer?
A: No, there isn’t! This is a “we want it and we want it now and my way” type of town and there’s no stopping this.
Well, there you have it folks; words of a professional. He was kind enough to leave me with some tips for the client, in case any of you are wondering what the does and don’ts are when calling. So here are some pointers:
♦Start off by saying ‘Hi’ when calling.
♦ Just give your first name and cross street, until otherwise prompted.
♦ Do not ask about the product, especially using words like:
Weed, Buddha, Pot, Cannabis, Ganja, 420, Bud, Chronic, Chiba, Grass, Mota, Sticky Icky Icky… and well you get the point!
♦ Don’t ask about prices or quantities.
♦ Be patient after calling. You’re not the only one who ‘lights up.’
♦When you call make sure you are actually physically at the location that you say you are. Apparently this happens a lot, and that’s how things get backed up.
♦ Hold all questions for the moment that they are there in your apartment. Some things are just better discussed in person.
♦ Always remember, discretion is key.