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Chapter 6 COMMENTARY ON DEALERS PDF Print E-mail
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Books - The Dream Sellers
Written by Richard Blum   
Monday, 03 December 2012 00:00

In this chapter we consider some of the implications which may be drawn from the data in the preceding chapters. The intention is not to identify major conclusions at this stage or to note, much less underline, all findings which are important. Rather we dwell on possibilities which suggest themselves but which might otherwise be overlooked.

Preference Patterns

In the first place we derive from the drug histories in Chapter One a major developmental pattern. We see a rise in the proportion of dealers using (any) drugs through the teen years and early twenties followed by a decline in the prevalence of use—that is, by increased abstinence on the part of former users—from age 26 on. The degree of abstinence with increasing age varies according to drugs but is constant for groups of drugs. Over time there is a consistent falling off, measured by abstinence on the part of one fourth of the sample, for alcohol, tranquilizers, amphetamines, hallucinogens, and cocaine. The least reduction occurs for tobacco, the opiates, and cannabis. Midway are the sedatives, the use of which is abandoned by about one fifth of the older dealers.

As for the frequency of use (incidence), three developmental patterns suggest themselves. The most common one is that an increasing proportion of those who use certain drugs (alcohol, tranquilizers, opiates, cocaine, and to a lesser degree tobacco) use them more often. A second pattern (which can be applied to sedatives and amphetamines) is of a plateau; the proportion of heavy users among all users appears stabilized. A third picture is of a decline in intensity of use with age, as occurs with cannabis and the hallucinogens. These patterns are tentatively set forth here, for, given the youth of our sample (only 5 per cent are over 35), insufficient data exist for characterizing middle-age drug-use changes, and, in some cases, the shifts in incidence are but slight.

The change in prevalence of use noted for all drugs, rise-peakdecline, suggests that some dealers reduce their use of at least some—if not all—illicit drugs as they grow older. Since our dealer sample includes those who have quit dealing as well as those still active, we wonder whether there may not be a three-way association among growing older, becoming more abstinent, and giving up drug dealing. Analysis of data presented later shows a significant difference in dealers' ages, with the more active concentrated in the 19 to 25 group, and a trend for the older men and women in the sample to have given up dealing. Thus, our expectation is supported and deserves later consideration.

A second development is that of increasingly or chronically intensive use among some dealers who continue to use one or several psychoactive drugs. What label best describes this most often increasing incidence of heavy use for some dealers is uncertain. One may speak of involvement in the drug life or centering on drugs; one may argue for increasing tolerance, which requires heavier doses; or one may invoke the terms dependence or addiction.

If we consider the index of favorite drugs, the construction of which embraced measures of prevalence and incidence and gave weight to large increases in intensity of use over time and to the absence of abstinence over time, we see that the all-time hit drugs for our sample were tobacco, cannabis, and the opiates. Second ranked were tranquilizers, alcohol, cocaine, hallucinogens, amphetamines, and sedatives. Least in demand were the special substances. These preferences certainly do not conform to any current pharmacological classification scheme. That fact should not however lead us to ignore a different classification which may tentatively be entitled one of enduring (or compelling) attractiveness for youth. Such a concept is independent of any requirement of consistency of probable drug effect or of consistency in ease of access, legality, manner of administration, and the like. Given our limited data and the arbitrariness of the components in our index of favorites, we do not argue that tobacco, cannabis, and the opiates (heroin primarily) are demonstrably those which have the greatest enduring attraction for youth. We do propose that one might entertain this index finding as a device for predicting which drugs those youth heavily involved in illicit use will most likely want to continue using and which, consequently, there may be greatest resistance to abandoning if measures either for control or persuasion are employed for intervention. Given our current experience with tobacco smoking among the young, the growth in cannabis use rates, and the reluctance of heroin users to change their brand, there may be something to this claim. Obviously the inference from the index about compelling attractiveness is not in harmony with current use patterns of alcohol, which nationally clearly remains our most prevalent drug of "abuse" defined in terms of the number of people suffering visible drug-related problems.

Dealing as a Personal Adjustment Solution

Throughout the interviews our dealers spoke of the social settings in which their drug use began and continued. They spoke of the importance of being together, rapping with one another, and turning on together. What they said is compatible with what one has learned elsewhere of drug use as a social activity. Yet we must offer a reservation based on an unobtrusive item: the statement by the great majority of dealers that their favorite nondrug leisure activities are solitary ones. This statement is supplemented by a minority report of a fourth that in school they were isolates or loners and the claim by one third that they now have no friends or very few. It is further supplemented by the fact that not only are 87 per cent of our sample not married and living with a spouse (with 80 per cent of that sample being between 19 and 35, and the California figures showing that 42 per cent of young people between 18 and 24 are married as are 88 per cent between 24 and 35) but half are not at all sure they ever wish to settle down to such stable relationships. Our reservation is that this sample of dealers must contain a large proportion of individuals who, like Monte of the case history, are at least introverted, possibly shy, and perhaps awkward or maladapted in establishing and maintaining relationships with others, certainly those requiring enduring sexual ties.

In contrast, we accept their own reports about the large number of people they know and deal with and the social context and interpersonal gratifications of dealing; and we accept the interviewer ratings suggesting that most dealers are at least superficially friendly and at ease. What is to be made of the contradiction? Might it be that the age-old use of drugs for their major purpose—the pleasurable facilitation of social relations (see Blum and associates, 1969a)—is especially important to people in our sample simply because without that boost they might not enjoy such relationships? Whether the speculation is in terms of euphoria, dampened anxiety, the release of inhibition, a set of shared expectations that chemical grease on the ways will ease the ship of sociability, or these together and more, possibly for dealers the heavy involvement in drugs is a means to enjoy with others experiences which they would not have without drugs.

This possibility raises others. Might it be that the evolution into the dealer role not only reflects an evolving adjustment to drug-using needs (continued access, supplies in case of tolerance, money to make buys) but constitutes simultaneously a special solution for these young people for several other problems? Dealing solves an economic dilemma. One can make good money without a good education and without having to engage in straight work, which does not appeal. Moreover, in spite of one's own appraisals of oneself as fit for such work if it is wanted, one may not be so fit from the standpoint of an employer. If dealers are, as the interviewers suspected, unbusinesslike and of uncertain reliability, if their work does involve a great deal of chatting, giving away of produce, and being high on the job, they are not cut out for diligent, circumspect, and nose-to-the-grindstone enterprises. "They" of course remains a speculative "some" or "many," never all this variegated group.

Might not dealing do more? Might it solve, temporarily, the problem of finding a role in life, an identification (a much overused term), or something to build a day around? Preble and Casey (1969) argue well that heroin use among slum dwellers in New York City—including their hustle of buying, selling, and using—provides "a motivation and rationale for the pursuit of a meaningful life, albeit a socially deviant one. The activities these individuals engage in and the relationships they have in the course of their quest for heroin are far more important than the minimal analegesic and euphoric effects of the small amount of heroin available to them. If they can be said to be addicted, it is not so much to heroin as to the entire career of the heroin user." Preble and Casey quote one 15-year heroin user: "Drugs is a hell of a game; it gives you a million things to talk about."

Perhaps for our otherwise possibly searching, shy, and uncertain souls (many of them preoccupied with their adjustment, their inner states, and "finding themselves") to be a dealer is to be one of the few things that fits: one's kindness expressed in generous drug giving; one's leadership seen in turning on new faces to new light; one's prowess seen in access to sex and admiration; one's power felt, if the need arises, as one plays with the vulnerability of the drug needy who come, dependent, seeking supplies; one's capabilities and prestige confirmed by that proof of success, the dollar; one's dependence on others (when there is such) mercifully put aside in the knowledge that one is not dependent as long as one has a fine supply; and one's uncertainty about what to do or how to do it put on the back burner of the mind as one busies oneself with each day's activities.

For some, in addition, dealing supplies the adventure and risk-taking they seek, the flouting of law that self-proof and perhaps some early infantile rage at restraint demand, and a raft of confederates who agree that delinquency is not immoral, that crime is not criminal, and that the natural law of one's peers supersedes the positive law of one's larger community. For some whose flattering self-portrayals are sheerest balderdash, dealing is also an opportunity to exploit and be aggressive: to carry a gun, to rob, to cheat, and sometimes to kill. Is this not violent pie to set before the would-be delinquent king? Do keep in mind that this group had quite a set—an average of four per dealer—of nondrug arrests, of which assaults ranked second. Add to that the unprosecuted homicides plus two official ones—acknowledged to interviewers—and one detects anger and destructiveness in the socialpsychodynamic picture. Interviewers noted such tendencies among 5 per cent of the sample.

We propose that being a dealer satisfies one more important urge in th.-t complex person—or the complex composite—being presented here. Consider how much like the rest of us the dealer is, how he values American virtues, how reasonable his policy proposals are, how surprisingly conservative he can be, and how fair an appraisal he can make of the consequences of drug use or the dealing life. Consider how he seeks social and career goals common not to the radical revolutionary or the bombed-out acid freak, but to the ordinary businessman. Keep in mind the values and practices of getting ahead; being intelligent, honest, reliable, friendly; offering a good product; giving money-back guarantees; and so on. Think how fiercely independently the business is done—not being part of any large and suspect corporation—how the dealer sets prices in best free-enterprise style according to what the market will stand or what the merchant's association agrees upon as a fixed price, giving preferential treatment to good customers, disdaining the dangerous expansion of credit, keeping profit without bowing to that monster federalist intervention the income tax, and turning to the government only for regulation not coercion. Is this not the platform of a small-town Chamber of Commerce or a conservative political group? Add to those views the flavor of the western frontier- each man unto himself defending his homestead (plus his stash of grass), hoping to strike it rich in the lawless land—and one has the drug dealer in heroic posture. To be a dealer, then, is to be a frontier American laissez-faire entrepreneur with the values of that vanishing species. Whether the dealer is this stereotype in fact, or at least a reasonable facsimile, or whether the image is chimerical, an American myth which he is acting out, is another matter. Clearly dealing is a form of business which, done (mostly) by the young, for the young, and to the young, allows those who do not fit into regular molds to feel virtuous and to move toward a kind of respectability through irregular channels.

That dealers are not fit for regular channels may be noticeable early, not in their drug use, which is common enough, but in that curious pattern of running away even from the things they liked—or say they liked. Here are included both families, with whom they claim they got on well, and school, which most of them claim they liked. That latter liking, although it decreased with age (which we presume represented increasing dissatisfaction with educational institutions), was still a general feeling, yet it did not suffice to keep them from either being truant or dropping out. Similarly, parental relations were mostly good ones just as feelings toward brothers and sisters were positive; yet the dealers moved out into the drug scene, against what was likely to be parental desire. (Recall that most say their behavior hurt their families. Certainly dealing is a far cry from what ordinary families cherish for their children.)

Since in giving their reasons for drug use, or those ascribed to others, they do not condemn either schools or parents, a further puzzle is posed as one wonders then how it was that families and schools failed to attract and hold them. Except for the psychological case studies of George, Mary, and Monte, our interview material in this part provides no in-depth evaluations of the dealers or direct observations of their families. (For a study of the family etiology of drug-risk behavior see Blum and associates, 1972.) It is clear from George, Mary, and Monte and from our family studies that drug involvement does rest on developmental and psychodynamic processes and events. Thus the failure of families and school to attract and hold can be understood only in terms of the larger context of the relationships between the child and his parents and between him and the school.

Yet one developmental feature is worth proposing. We believe it may be stated as the capture of the youth by the peer culture when the family ceases to exercise the affection and control necessary for maintaining the child integrally within the family bosom. To a lesser extent the same may be said of schools or, more exactly, of teachers. If as institutions, both family and school become so weak, so uncompelling (a nucleus without charge by which to attract and hold its particles) that neither commands nor generates attraction or duty, then why should children not drift off to the semiautonomous culture (or nonculture) of peers, an environment studded with attractions, few of which make demands on the superego or even ego? An alternative guess is that the reasonably cool picture presented by dealers of relations with teachers, parents, and siblings (with notable exceptions) was a denial of hotter feelings. Were that so one could posit various psychological stresses within family and within child which, although operating to lead to his estrangement from conventional institutions and from affectionate parental relationships, were, like much else in the dealer's life may be, unacknowledged. Such speculations are supported by work such as that of Keniston (1960) and Eva Maria Blum (in Blum and associates, 1969b).

Dealing as Career Development

Drug dealing has partial origins in social activities among peers—activities involving illicit drugs and centering initially on desires to share an experience, to consolidate friendships, and to prove one's importance (implying that the drug-dealing role is an important one among the using community). These activities occur in situations which are, for the most part, outside parental control, for the parties where so much dealing begins occur in homes other than those of the dealers. We guess that no parents are present at the time. Getting acquainted with dealers, which we take to be essential for later dealing, begins easily and early in these drug-using social circumstances, for the first dealers met are already friends or acquaintances, not strangers. The first drugs taken are gifts or shared pleasures rather than purchases; and later, when buying begins, prices are low.

The process of becoming an illicit user and then a dealer does not occur in an emotional vacuum. Although initial and later approval of dealers met was the mode, some of our sample do admit to an initial moral disapproval, one partly but never completely attenuated over time. The emotional mix on the critical occasions—first illicit use, first distribution, and first sale—was heavily positive. Our then young dealers were enjoying conviviality as well as (probably pharmacological) euphoria, and we infer that their friends affirmed the goodness of drugs and their sharing. Even so, we take it that the venture as perceived by the doer is partly perilous, for the majority were nervous and excited before their first buy. However, that phase passes; only a third of those nervous when buying initially were in that state when first distributing, and half of them were calm by the time they initiated selling for profit. Simultaneously and expectedly, matter-of-factness increased, although slowly and never in the majority. We thus conclude that through the early stages, including the commercial ones, dealing has emotional gratifications for most as well as emotional drawbacks (guilt, worry) for some.

Dealers link initial drug use, as well as the mastery of the illicit and whatever it all symbolizes psychodynamically, to a reduction of nervousness and an increase in euphoria. This observation is by no means surprising in view of the probable pharmacological effects of the drugs in use, but we note it here as part of the sequence of events which dealers themselves recall from the before and after pictures in their minds; this recollection does suggest a series of gratifying (positively reinforcing) events which may serve both suppressive functions (nervousness and guilt reduced) and pleasure-giving ones. We do note the marked reduction in being high, however, which indicates the shift from sociability to commerce. As the economic motive is introduced, the era of good feeling, specifically intoxicated good feeling, is abolished as part of the immediate aura of the supply transaction. Likewise, rationalism (or at least procedural concerns) is introduced because of the need to protect against arrest.

Another shift is reduction in the immediate prominence of the dealer's social and emotional needs as a trigger for supplying as he moves from the sharing or give-away to the profit stage. Once our dealer had supplied drugs freely and enjoyed that, he also became known as a source. As such he was approached by others in those settings where he had already played the supplier role. By this time our dealer had come to a decision which was at least partly economic, so that when the desires of others could be turned to money-making advantage the budding dealer did so; at the same time, he was able to play the part of the supplier, which he had initiated early without profit —presumably gaining the same social and emotional gratifications as before from that position. The budding dealer, then, enjoys a situation in which he may have his cake and eat it too.

For such individuals the prospects appear so compellingly attractive that even though many hypothesized events might have prevented their commitment to dealing, almost none suggested a sense of internal restraint or counterforce. Thus, if external authority had stopped them through arrest, teaching them early what many of them learned late, they believe they would not have continued dealing.

Similarly, if someone had come along with money but had not required labor, some would not have gone on to deal further. Indeed, less than 5 per cent of the total discussing prevention and intervention came up with any hypothetical conditions which involved their own activity or self-restraint. All other proposals were passive—that is, if drugs were legal, if there were no drugs available, if their suppliers were all caught, if they were stony broke and so could not buy drugs, then they would not have gone on. These orientations reflect what might variously be called a high demand quality, an approach-approach situation, a compulsion, a passivity, or simply a lack of awareness of any pleasing alternatives once the then young dealer had experienced both the satisfactions of drug use and of the role of the supplier and the economic advantages to be derived.

This developmental process is a remarkably speedy one, considering the theoretical constraints which ought to be operating in young people from largely middle-class families, having mostly non-delinquent and non-drug-using siblings, and knowing both the illegality of and the risk of arrest associated with dealing. Consider that the majority began to use and began to supply within the same three-year bracket, ages 15 to 18. There is a lag, to be sure, since the sequence goes in steps; 16 per cent who had started using by age 18 had not started supplying until some time between ages 19 and 23, and 22 per cent of these,,18-and-under users did not sell until ages 19 to 23.

This youthfulness and the middle-class origins of many dealers probably account for their informality and lack of professionalism (in the criminological sense). Ever since Sutherland (1937), sociological studies have emphasized the learning of criminal careers and the discrimination between professionals who know what they are doing—and how to get away with it—and various other groups of habitual, amateur, emotional, and other ne'er-do-well or sad-sack offenders. Professionalism implies tutelage, planning, skill, connections, and strong economic interests. Although some of our dealers do become professional, few start out that way. The consequences of such naivete for some are thoroughly discussed by R. Smith (1971) in his study of speed dealers in San Francisco.

In spite of their lack of skills, our dealers appear to have gotten along rather easily in the early stages; at least most report no problems in the business—most likely because their drug use and trading took place in a familiar and friendly social environment. Such an environment, protected from pervasive law enforcement threats and no jungle in itself, did not reward carelessness or naivete with disaster. The casualness of early dealing may also be linked to the general style of the California drug scene, which proclaims the value of relaxation and recreation (Goode, 1970) or of being easy, hanging loose, or staying cool (as opposed to being up tight, which implies anxious carefulness). Casualness can also be linked to personality components (remember our speculation about passivity) and to possible chronic drug reactions. With regard to the latter we must not forget that, by the early twenties, the majority of our dealers were heavy users of cannabis, and many intensively used hallucinogens, amphetamines, or opiates, or all three.

Dealing as Disharmony

Except for the older minorities at either end of the spectrum—those who have quit drugs and dealing for good and those who are fully committed to addiction or professional criminality or both (see Chapter Eight)—our dealers are, we believe, somewhat unsettled—that is, not of one mind, not in harmony with themselves and their environment. That imbalance is not apparent from their actions. However, when one listens to their reflections, observations, concerns, and plans—above all, perhaps, their hopes for their children—the evidence for doubts about the wisdom of their life course to date is compelling. To resolve these doubts, three major courses are open. One course is deeper immersion in drugs—the solution of Nepenthe. Another is movement into the straight life. The third course, imposed from the outside, consists of arrest, prison, disabling ill health, or, for some, death. Both arrest and ill health contain possibilities for change—either through treatment or spontaneous shifts in goals. The data, however, to date (see Blum and Blum, 1967; Blum, 1967) are only modestly encouraging for either of these.

When we saw them, the most salient experience among our dealers was their growing realization that people do get arrested and do go to jail. This realization was evidence of the overthrow of what may variously be called fantasies of infantile omnipotence, adolescent foolhardiness in believing they cannot suffer harm, or simply learning in the face of experience. Compared to the threat of arrest, all the other specific sources of expressed dissatisfaction with their lives were mild. Of course, this focus on arrest as a reason for felt apprehensions may be simply a convenient, understandable, acceptable—but in fact psycho-dynamically incorrect—hook on which to hang anxiety arising from inchoate, internally generated conflicts. We suspect, for example, that the very infrequent reporting of guilt (in Chapter Two) in association with early drug use and supplying does not square with the high levels of nervousness or excitement described on these same early occasions. A conflict of conscience may exist and does not disappear, even if denied, as one grows from teens to twenties, so that the emotional tax on dealing is chronic. Such a strain, augmented by other buffeting forces associated with learning one's way in the world, might well generate internal distress that would be, as is normal for most humans, blamed on (projected onto) external circumstances.

Our dealers have had some unpleasant experiences other than arrest or fear of arrest (38 per cent have never been arrested): ill health, personality change, disenchantment with the scene, fear, violence, growing criminality, addiction, and the like. Also, most have had some personal experience with "bad trips," and nearly half fear becoming—or believe that they have become—drug dependent. All these experiences have happened to them rather quickly. After all, the average dealer in the sample is now only in his early twenties, has been dealing for only a few years, and began his illicit use just a few years ago in his teens. These young people must have some difficulty in accepting all the unhappy external events and in coping with the frightening internal ones. Even if there is an ethic of being cool, which likely pervades what was told the interviewer, even if chronic drug use has itself blunted the sharp edges of distress, we believe that the painful components of living are sufficient to account for dealers' negative reactions to the life.

Yet ambivalence remains. Most of the dealers are still in the life; those out want to return; and many of those in deny that they are dissatisfied. That denial is, we believe, more than simply playing it cool for the interview. We suspect that it is linked to the remarkable lack of interest—on the part of nearly all our dealers— in alternatives. Consider( for example, that almost none of our dealers are attracted by straight jobs—not because they feel unfit for work in the straight world but because the straight world is not their cup of tea. When discussing the pressures to quit dealing, few mentioned pressures from within. Even the knowledge that their life involves risks to others whom they love (an admission made blandly, sadly, or hostilely depending on the person) is not any reason to want to quit. A few exceptions spoke of moral qualms which moved them to quit; others, in discussing their own dependence and inability to straighten out, implied—perhaps—a desire to clean up, but we cannot be sure.

As ambivalence has sharpened over the years, other less equivocal changes have taken place as well: less interest in and pleasure from others, greater wariness and suspiciousness of others, more emphasis on money and business, more preoccupation with one's own inner states, more dependence on drugs. In short, dealers have become more egotistical, paranoid, and obsessive; more self-centered, more work-oriented, and less easy-going and friendly. With the exception of drug use, are these not major characteristics which youngsters in the drug scene abhor among their establishment elders? Ironic if by a different path our friendly and well-intentioned dealers have come to the same fate. (For a provocative exposition of this development in a similar group, see John Weakland in Blum and associates, 1969a.)

Dealer as Businessman and Criminal

Our dealers are part of a much larger California group with whom they have social and business ties. This group contains thousands of users and a large but unknown number of regular dealers as well. Within it status hierarchies for dealers are functional in the sense that conduct or traits for which a dealer is commended or admired are, in part, those which make it easy and safe for others to do business with him. We noted in Chapter Three that some of the same conditions apply to the dealers' selection of customers; reliable, predictable, mature people are preferred. These functional virtues are not unique to dealers but are part of those of the larger society; so it is that men are admired for intelligence, friendliness, and generosity as well as reliability and the like. In being in business at all, in valuing success, in building organizations, and in being sociable while they are at it, we believe that dealers reflect the society of which they are a part. Thus, while deviant or different in various ways—and along a many-hued spectrum—they are also much the same as the rest of us in what they hold dear. Insofar as they place special emphasis on values held generally by modern youth—the goodness of pleasure, freedom, and relaxation—these dealers are likely closer to other youth than are their harder-working, pleasure-denying elders.

The fact that women do not participate as fully as men in the risks and profit of dealing too is a national, indeed nearly worldwide, phenomenon. Dealers seem no different from others in accounting for or justifying it. (We add here only that the suggestion of women's not being trusted, in the absence of evidence that women are either more paranoid than men or more dishonest in business, allows the suggestion that some of the paranoia attributed to women may be a projection of the distrust of the paranoid man.)

However busy and successful these young people are in selling drugs, the majority are amateurs not fully committed to the dealing life, not convinced that they are themselves real dealers (professionals), and sure that they are not criminals. Most are making money—good money, for many—but their dealing is not just business, even if the longer they stay in the more businesslike it becomes. That business is just an aspect of the scene itself, where the pleasures of drug use and socializing, of sharing drugs and experiences are paramount features. Indeed, one of the definitions of a professional (having one's primary interests allied with dealing) enters here; many of them do not have their primary interests so allied even if, by now, most are deeply immersed but, as we have said, ambivalently so.

Their lack of professionalism, or perhaps better put as their lack of a strict vocational role or trade identification, may be seen in their ideological stance vis-a-vis the police and the law. Other workers, whether plumbers or old-fashioned professional criminals, do not usually derogate the police as an immoral force. Most of these young people do. Young dealers do not accept being labeled as criminals. In the same way Goode's (1970) sample rejected society's judgment of their marijuana use as wrong because to them it was right. Our dealers explain that they are not criminals (even if they can be executed in two states for activities such as sales to minors) because drugs should be legal and because selling does not hurt anyone. Their lack of commitment in an active sense to a life of crime may be deduced from their expectations for themselves for five years hence; the majority look forward to some kind of honest activity, even if not in conventional ways. Most also look forward to their associates' going straight.

At this point two qualifications must be entered. One is the reminder that the sample is variegated, not homogeneous. There are professionals in it—professional dealers, professional criminals: full-time, money-making, tough, competent characters who have no illusions about their job classification as judged by society and about their future intentions. Whether we use the complexity of their business activities, their arrest or addiction history, the amount of money they earn, their age, or their statements of their intentions and their self-descriptions as professionals, from 10 to 20 per cent of this group are not part of an amorphous drug-powered fellowship but are at the hard end of the criminal spectrum.

The second qualification is a reminder not to believe everything we are told. Especially, young dealers ought not to believe what they tell themselves. We have earlier met in this sample the denial of guilt accompanied by what was at least a very odd nervousness over what one was doing. We have heard thoughtful and profound discussions by dealers themselves concerning the hazards of drug use and of the dealing life. The past was the golden age, the present is money. The past was flowers, the present is increasing violence. The past was childhood, the present is involvement to the point that almost none think of quitting the life for anything in the straight world. And tomorrow is more money as well as trying to assure oneself a supply of drugs because in many cases, one fears, one has to have them. It is only the day after tomorrow five years hence that "I will have a straight job, but in the meantime straight people are not for me." And in the meantime half our sample are making their only income from dealing, two thirds are becoming skilled and developing organization, and an unprofessional 40 per cent qualify as serious street dealers.

We affirm that most of these young people do not seek a criminal career in any purposeful way, that many would like to enjoy honest lives later on as a way out of the stress and strain which pervades dealing, and that most subscribe to the larger social values of honesty, peacefulness, trustworthiness, and the rest. They are transitional people or, in Erikson's (1950) sense, are enjoying an extended moratorium in the uncertain sanctuary of the youthful drug scene. Whether aging will bring with it another significant shift, opposite to that observed so far (which has carried them into more businesslike dealing and more intensive drug use), we cannot say. For some it clearly will, for our data show that some have become more abstinent and some have left dealing. For the others, given the course on which life's river has carried them so far, given the unattractiveness of any immediate goals in the straight world, given the satisfactions of their drug scene, and given the dubious resources of many to gain those same satisfactions in the rigorous world of the straights, one must wonder whether the dreams of a straight life will ever come true.

Voice of the Dealer

With regard to the policy recommendations made by dealers, those who imagine dealers to be bomb-throwing radicals, fanged monsters, or Martians will be surprised by the degree of compatibility between their drug policy proposals and those made by reputable and responsible citizens: continued government control of production, traffic, and consumption; increased education, research, and treatment; penalties (milder) for drugs, sales, or other conduct with demonstrable harmful effects; reduction of traffic in harmful substances or sales directed toward the child consumer. Indeed, one may see signs of public interest coming before self-interest in their recommendations, for some of those same dealers who ask for cannabis legalization expect that event to ruin their business. Some even call for stronger controls on drugs which they themselves employ—whether these be alcohol and tobacco or hallucinogens, opiates, or amphetamines. As for their general view, they express the need for more justice in the best tradition of a constitutional democracy and for alleviation overall of our criminal-law approach, which has made United States penalties often heavier than those in other 'Western lands without any increase in efficacy by way of either deterrence or prevention of recidivism; these and other proposals are neither radical nor unthoughtful. To be a deviant, in the sociological sense, does carry with it a host of correlations suggesting a certain generalizability of being different (Berg and Bass, 1961; Robins, 1966); but we should not overlook that, perhaps in most ways, even those who are very different are much like the rest of us after all.

 

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

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