By New York Weed Deliverer
Words by Jacob Kampp Berliner, Illustration by Sine Jensen.
These days, weed is a reoccurring topic in the news. After the current events at the Freetown Christiania here in Copenhagen, politicians debate whether or not weed should be legalised in Denmark. Taking a look at the US, a clear pioneer in that manner, a few states and cities are on the forefront in having legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use. We caught up with a weed deliverer in NYC to dig deeper into what it actually means to be in the weed business, what role Thai food plays and how NYC has changed over the past years.
Let’s take it from the beginning. How did you start?
I was a bike messenger for four years in another city. When I moved to New York, a lot of the bike messengers I knew here were delivering weed. I feel like it’s a pretty big thing in New York. When you want to buy weed you don’t go to the dealers’ house where he sits with his python and watches movies . How it works is that somebody just comes by with a Thai food delivery.
So, Thai food and weed. Can you tell who is a weed messenger?
Definitely. You can see that the person is not just riding his bike delivering food. You can easily tell that they are “that type of messenger”. Most people wouldn’t think about it twice, but when you realize it, it is totally obvious. You can really tell with most people. I mean, you can never be sure. Who knows if I am right but sometimes I think “oh, I know exactly what you are doing”. I think the police can easily spot them as well nowadays; they have seen enough people over the years. I have known people that got arrested out of the blue.
Can the police just call and pretend that they are interested in buying some weed and then catch you?
That’s not how it happened with the people I know, but I guess they could do it, although they have to be smart about it. You need to have some kind of referral to get into the system. That way a stranger can’t just call and order weed. For example, if I wanted to get the number from you, you’d have to tell the company that your friend was interested. Then they would keep your name in the database as their referral. So, if I happen to do any shady shit, they will call you and ask what’s up with your friend and they might come to your house.
Does everybody you deliver to have dreadlocks?
No, it’s all kinds of different people. There are many family people calling after their kids are asleep. So you can’t ring the doorbell because the kids are sleeping. There is a whole range from business people to disgusting stoners. I’ve actually had people trying to watch porn with me.
Do you make friends with the people you deliver to?
A little bit. I had a mother cooking chicken tenders and drinking wine. She was trying to feed me but I couldn’t stay because I had other jobs. I unfortunately had to keep moving but I was definitely feeling it. Her kid’s room had a racecar bed and I thought she must have been a single young mom. The next time I went there, it turns out she had a huge husband but she was still flirting hardcore with me. I know people that slept with customers but I never crossed that line.
Do you ever get cheated, for example do people take the weed and throw the door in your face?
No, I think that most customers are afraid of what the consequences would be because they don’t know anything about it. We know where they live and what they look like and we have their numbers. It also goes the other way around. I don’t know anything about my customers and what they are capable of. They are usually nice to me. There have been riders who have done shady shit and stolen from their customers but it’s not worth it for them if somebody steals something worth 600 dollars to call the police.
How do you keep yourself secure in this whole thing?
I have a different phone for work. That way none of my customers have my phone number and I am only getting calls from the dispatch. I am seeing the customers directly but I am not communicating with them on the phone. So if the police caught somebody, they would only find out the number of my work phone that I only have while working. I get it when I am going in to pick up the product and then I need to sign off how much I am delivering that day. Otherwise it would be a “he said, she said” policy. It’s a security thing. I get the product for free and at the end of the day I give them the remaining product as well as the money.
What’s the gender ratio actually like?
It’s pretty mixed. People feel safe in this although you go to their house. They talk to the dispatchers to make conversation and build a trustworthy relation. Actually I am not really sure how it’s going down because I never called. I don’t have that number to call. I could get it after but I don’t need it because I can just get weed at the end of my shift if I need some for myself because I get a discount but it depends on what I want. Sometimes I get a bonus if it’s really busy. You also get a Christmas bonus. We even have a Christmas party where you meet everyone and you get a Christmas card with your fake name. Last year we had our Christmas party at a bar. It was a music venue and two of the owners were musicians so they had all the equipment. I am the only visual artist among the riders but most of the other people are musicians, so they started jamming. There was a big pile of weed that we could use and just hang out.
When is the busiest time for delivery?
Usually around 7PM, when people get home from work. We are open 2 to 9PM. There are about 100 calls a day. Manhattan is kind of new, there are not as many customers; there are definitely more in Brooklyn. We only stick to weed because the jail time is pretty much non-existent, whereas you get in serious trouble with hard drugs. Also, the kind of customers are very different: there is a big difference between a pothead and a cokehead. Sometimes I deliver to ghettos. One time, I delivered to houses where you could see all these dudes hanging out in the streets, wearing red shirts and red bandanas with face tattoos. I asked one of my customers who they were and it turns out it was the heroin dealers that keep the neighborhood safe. They definitely knew what I was doing and that wasn’t cool because they want to keep the area safe for them. They don’t want other dealers to hang around there.
A couple of years ago we had brown delivery in Denmark but it’s closed now. Hash is more popular here, what about New York
There are different types of weed. Some of them to me seem made up because they have a smiley face or Captain America on the package. They are usually small 50-dollar cubes. We have larger ones too. Some people buy a whole bunch at a time but a lot of people buy more regularly and only get one because they can’t deal with more than that. Some people call every day. That’s serious stuff; they definitely have a problem. We sometimes sell other products like hash oil or smoking pens.
I feel like NYC has really changed over the past years. If you walk down the street now you will notice the smell of weed a few times. That never happened to me a few years back.
There was this confusion about decriminalization, which in fact is not true. The police has opt their arrests since that. But at the same time it has made all the consumers and residents feel safe, but the truth is they are not safe anymore. What happens after you get caught sadly depends on the color of your skin. You have a disadvantage if you are black; as a white person you will most likely not get arrested. I have never been arrested for weed delivery, only for graffiti and shoplifting. I don’t know anyone that has gotten into real trouble. You stay the night maybe and get a fine usually, but that means you can’t get into trouble for the next year. The good thing is that the company pays the fine; they also pay the hospital bill in case you have a work injury. They don’t have insurance but they give you cash. If you get messed up, they will keep paying you. It’s a good company, not every company would do that.
It seems like they are more generous than McDonald’s.
Absolutely. It pays a lot better. You have to be a nice person because it cultivates trust with your customers and the people you work with. If your employers think you are an asshole and you get arrested, they will flip. My company had us meet with lawyers who told us what to say which gave us a real insight into how much trouble we would be or not be in.
Where do you think your company gets the weed?
I was actually wondering about that earlier today. I never asked them. I generally don’t ask too many questions. I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable about me asking weird things. I just show up with a hockey bag and do my job. I guess it comes from all over the US.
When are you going to stop with weed delivery?
When I can make enough money. You make a day rate and if you’ve been there for a while, you can also be on a commission base. You can make up to 450 dollars a day. It’s not guaranteed; the minimum is 100 dollars. They pay you that if nobody called that day because they initially don’t know how many people want to order weed.
It’s a bit like being a stripper – it’s easy money. How many people exactly know about your job?
Exactly, it’s easy money. I have been doing messenger work for 8-9 years now and it’s not that I necessarily even enjoy it anymore. There is part of me that wishes that I would do something that adds knowledge or capabilities to my skillset, which could then turn into another career. Then it can only get worse because you are getting older and injured and your knees might hurt more. My parents know what I am doing. I have made them feel that I have good judgment and that I am safe. My mom used to smoke weed as well, so she is pretty chill about it. I got my mom some really good weed a couple of Christmases ago. Parents always worry but mine are okay with it. They understand that I am not facing legitimate trouble at the level I am in. If I would be the owner running the business, it would be a different story. I have also told people that I dated. Usually girls think it’s cool until they start worrying about you. Girls usually like bad boys – that’s the problem, haha!
Do you smoke when you are driving?
No, I get way too paranoid and weird. I tried it and it was horrible. I did it consistently for a while, also while being at work. I overdid it. There was a period when I wasn’t smoking that much. Right now I am trying to cut back again. It’s always a battle. It’s always between not at all and full on; anywhere in between that.
To wrap it up, what has been the craziest experience so far?
There was one situation that freaked me out a little bit when I had a delivery in Crown Heights. A customer wasn’t answering the doorbell and a fight broke out right in front of the building. It was this giant fat black dude who took a swing at another giant black dude. One of them missed and lost his balance, and the other one just went after him, kicking him in his head until he was bubbling out of his mouth and making a whistling sound while his eyes rolled back in his head. I couldn’t leave and I was just thinking about what I had in my bag and how I could get out.