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Chapter 10 PUSHERS PDF Print E-mail
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Books - The Dream Sellers
Written by Richard Blum   
Thursday, 29 November 2012 00:00

We have, in the past, had occasion to examine proselytizing in some detail (Blum and associates, 1964). In earlier chapters our population of dealers have described the gratifications from dealing. Now we shall see whether there is more to be learned about those pushers who have the most impact as far as the spread or diffusion of illicit-drug use is concerned—impact here defined as introducing the greatest number of heretofore nonusers to illicit drugs.

We have already presented some data on the motives and characteristics of these proselytizers, whom we shall refer to as "initiators." Most dealers, as we have seen, deny the accuracy of the popular belief that dealers, in order to create addicted customers, often purposely trick or seduce nonusers into becoming users; on the other hand, some —especially our so-called criminal dealers—do admit to this practice. Within the dealer group that we have characterized as criminal (lower-class, opiate-using, multiple delinquency), however, there are two subgroups: an experienced professional group who turn on many newcomers (more than psychedelic dealers in general do) and a group of noninitiators, who claim that they never turn on novices. These non-initiators bear close resemblance to the terminated dealers, whom we compared with active dealers. In that comparison, it will be recalled, an especially active group of initiators were those active dealers whom we called "cool-man-hip," whereas the terminated dealers in general were noninitiators.

Findings from these comparisons suggest that initiators can be predicted on the basis of their dealing style and history or on the basis of typologies (conceptual conveniences designed to label a cluster of characteristics that are shared, to a lesser or greater degree, by an identifiable portion of our sample). What we have learned so far indicates that there is a significant association between being an experienced serious dealer—whether in psychedelic or harder drugs—and being primarily responsible for the spread of drug use to new people. We do not here imply that the dealer is the sole cause; we know that drug use "spreads" because people are curious about and then come to enjoy or need drugs, because there is a social milieu in which that use is accepted and encouraged, and because there exist neither internal nor external barriers sufficient to prevent people from engaging in this conduct. Nevertheless, there is an immediate human instrument who transfers a drug from one place into the hands (or mouth, veins, nostrils) of the novice. The dealer is this instrument, although he comes in a variety of forms, including the form excluded from our sample—the nonregular nonprofit-making fellow who, evidenced in the work of Goode (1970) and Carey (1968), is simply a regular user trading drugs back and forth with other regular users.

In our sample of 480, we have 74 dealers who contend that they have never sold drugs to someone who was not already a user; 270 who state that they have introduced between one and nineteen people to their first illicit-drug experience; and 124 dealers who say that they have "turned on" twenty or more people. These groups form the basis for our comparisons. A summary of the frequency of statistically significant differences shows that the greatest differences are between the extreme groups; these differences occur in 325 out of 576 inquiry or rating areas. Between the affirmed noninitiators (none turned on) and 'the small-impact group (one to nineteen turned on), 313 differences occur which are significant beyond the P = < .05 level. Between the small-impact and the major initiators (twenty or more turned on), there are 236 differences. The 387 significant F tests affirm a difference in the distribution of ratings or replies between groups, as contrasted with within-group distributions. We shall limit our analysis here to a comparison of the extremes.

The initiator group, more than the noninitiator group, came into our sampling net via either police or prison referrals (the official criminal group) or via referrals from another dealer; that is, through serious business channels. The noninitiator dealers were introduced to our interviews via a social chain; that is, as part of friendship networks.

In comparison to the noninitiator dealers, the initiators are older, better educated, less often employed in straight jobs (but less often in bizarre or other criminal ones), single, and not black. Individual cases indicate that initiators—compared with noninitiators—have had less early exposure to alcohol and less heavy later alcohol use, less later-life tobacco use, more intravenous amphetamine use, more cannabis use, more hallucinogen use, less opiate and cocaine use, and less special-substance use. At the beginning of their dealing careers the initiators less often were involved with hard drugs, more often sold to make money and did so without qualms, were aware of risk of arrest, and expanded their business on their own initiative. They enjoyed the guidance of a more experienced dealer and were, at the time of interview, more likely to be those active dealers we examined in the preceding chapter. They are less likely, in comparison to the noninitiator dealers, to have considered quitting; they have been dealing for a longer period of time, state that they do not fear jail, and are not dissatisfied with the life of the dealer. Not worried about their own drug use or addiction and thoroughly committed to drugs and dealing, they make most of their income from illicit sources. Their dealing career has brought them increased profit over the years and increased business travel; and they have increasingly emphasized cannabis and hallucinogens, both for sale and personal preference, and avoided addicts and speed freaks as customers.

The initiators have had the younger customers and, at the time of interview, concentrated their sales in the late-teen and early-twenty group; most of their customers are white. Unlike the noninitiator group, whose customers are believed to seek escape, the initiators believe that their customers want enjoyment and excitement. The non-initiators are the more sensitive to paranoia and upset in their customers; the initiators extol the tranquility, sensitivity, openness, and nonconformity of theirs.

There are no differences in the number of customers, but the initiators know many more dealers than the noninitiators. The former speak of their enjoyment in turning people on. The initiators are far more optimistic about the effects of drugs on people than are the non-initiators; no wonder the initiators are in favor of a "stoned society" and the noninitiators are opposed. The initiators are also less businesslike, if nonbusiness is taken to include giving drugs away, spending time chatting, and selling at cost. On the other hand, the initiators are more often wholesalers, farmers, manufacturers, national and international traffickers, agents, bankers, and otherwise specialists in other than street trade. Even so, they have experienced more supply problems than the noninitiator street dealer—which suggests that they are not the best of businessmen. They are more emotionally involved in drug ideology, if their negative views of narcs and a variety of proposals for changes in drug laws are taken as measures.

The initiators have experienced fewer drug arrests (36 per cent vs. 63 per cent) but do not differ markedly from noninitiators in non-drug arrests. This is a paradox, since more nonarrested dealers than arrested dealers have turned on large numbers of novices. We conclude, after scrutinizing the data, that there is a trend toward lesser criminality (defined by nondrug arrests) among the initiators than among the non-initiators.

The initiators more often than noninitiators admit to breaking the law for the sheer pleasure of it. They also more readily describe themselves as professional dealers, but not as professional criminals. They have helped more new dealers get started than have the non-initiators. Also, the initiators describe their relations with parents as not good ones; and they seem not to have enjoyed elementary school or high school, sensed themselves as disliked by teachers, and were truant. While they claim many close friends, fewer of these are not users—compared to the friends claimed by noninitiators.

Comment and Summary

The comparison of dealers who claim never to have initiated novices into illicit use with those who claim they have frequently done so reveals that although there is overlap with the groups described earlier—the initiator having characteristics akin to the active (coolman-hip) big dealer and the experienced criminal dealer—there are also important special features which set initiators apart. They are, primarily, psychedelic dealers whose careers and self-descriptions suggest special psychodynamic features.

There is an early verbalized history of family and school maladjustment, of social relations which depend upon drugs for their existence (not just their facilitation), and of "acting out" of rebellious sentiments (breaking the law for the fun of it). There is also, as part of what we might guess to be the "empty extrovert" syndrome (external socialibity with inner loneliness), a rather singular rationalization of drug selling from the beginning as a money-making enterprise—when, in fact, the history of the dealer suggests that psychological rather than economic needs are pushing him to push drugs, and his involvement in the drug scene is emotional and ideological. The initiator is optimistic about drugs for others and for himself, and he makes special efforts to draw others into his own drug world—not just by turning on novices but by recruiting new dealers as well.

It is well to distinguish the proselytizing dealer from the more serious active and criminal dealers; for among the initiators, dealing retains a strong social component and has not developed into as highly specialized, criminal, and successful a business—even though it contains these elements. Its evolution appears to be more horizontal, embracing more people, than vertical, an upward movement to hard business practice. It appears to be, at all times, a self-initiated development. We infer that the proselytizer has embarked on his dealing consciously; he is not simply swept along the stream of life to accidentally find himself in the role of the supplier.

The drug dealer who does not initiate others is rare, most like the criminal dealers, especially the losers in that group; he has comparatively little optimism about what drugs can do for himself or for others. He is as busy and successful—he makes as much money and has as many customers—as the proselytizer; but he does not involve himself with the young, with being sociable, or with drug ideology. For all of his involvement with opiates, crime, arrest, and the like, his compulsion—if it be that—is for drug ingestion and not for making the world over into one large drug scene. One can argue that the initiator acts to bring others into his world to relieve his own social distress. That is a speculative proposition, for one could also argue that the non-proselytizing dealer is far worse off, having never had dreams or enthusiasm, lacking the push to do anything but chemically assuage himself with private rather than social solace, and not enjoying the benefits of a supporting ideology.

Accompanying these characterizations and speculations, there must be the caution that there is no one classic proselytizer or pusher. There is variety within the group and at least two clear subgroups: one, part of the psychedelic scene; the other, part of the hard-drug scene (and the twain do meet). In the proselytizer we have detected few signs which support the myth of the purveyor who sets out to create drug slaves or to build his fortune on drug-wrecked minds and bodies. To the contrary, the dealer who initiates most believes he is doing a good thing for his clients and honors his clients with complimentary views of their persons and philosophies. It is the noninitiator who—himself perhaps bitter about what drugs do—abstains from introducing newcomers to them. Nevertheless, behind the generosity and chemically aided conviviality of the proselytizer do lie some strong needs which are not those based upon an objective diagnosis of what is best for his clients. We suspect that the heavy purveyor wishes to recast his world in shapes more like the molecule of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol or lysergic acid diethylamide-25, so that he can be more comfortable socially and psychologically and so that he may vent, in his action, some of his unresolved conflicts about discipline and authority. We suspect he is like the driven missionary who must have converts lest he himself lose faith.


Our valuable member Richard Blum has been with us since Tuesday, 21 February 2012.

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