From smoker to grower: Joint rollers bring light to a stealth society


Halent Laboratories is a medical marijuana testing facility in West Sacramento, California. (Jose Luis Villegas/Sacramento Bee/MCT).

Alyssa Morlacci

From behind graffiti-tortured dumpsters, a man dressed in all black takes a drag, blows a ring of smoke and awaits his buyer.

The image of drug deals between thugs in back alleys is only popular in Hollywood movies. Real drug deals happen in parking lots before class by students who are otherwise taking notes in the third row of a lecture hall.

Money-changing and drug distribution are part of many students’ daily lives. In the “underground society” of college campus drug dealers, buyers and suppliers, students on each end of the marijuana chain spoke under pseudonyms about their business and relationship with the drug.


Rian, senior psychology major, said she doesn’t like to spend her money shopping or going out. Instead, she spends $50 buying an eighth to a quarter ounce of marijuana every week.

“Typical day: wake up, shower, drink coffee, get ready for school, walk the dog, say hi to the cat, smoke. Go to class, learn, go to another class, learn, come home, eat, smoke pot. Go to exercise class, come home, do homework, smoke pot. Do homework, go to bed.”

Rian was 15 years old the first time she and her friends smoked marijuana in a parking lot outside of a Quizno’s before driving home.

“Time was going so slow, but we felt like we were going so fast, and we were so hungry we went to Burger King,” Rian said. “And then I went back to one of their houses and crashed. And then, I just started smoking pot.”

“I was just curious, I guess,” Rian said. “My best friend’s older sister smoked pot, so that’s where we got it.”

Rian said her curiosity fueled what turned into an infatuation with marijuana.

“I was a pothead in high school; everybody knew it too,” Rian said. “People were surprised that I even graduated. I was a bad-ass. Got suspended all the time, like, swore in class. Oh my god, I thought I was so cool.”

Now, Rian is planning her life after graduation this spring and said people can hardly believe she will complete her degree with a 3.8 GPA. Rian said when she got to college she figured out how to use the drug to motivate herself.

“I reward myself with weed,” Rian said. “Do your homework, then you can smoke weed. It’s all about self-discipline. Work hard. Play hard. But you’ve got to work hard first.”


“‘What’s going on man?’ He’ll say, ‘Nothing.’ He’ll check it out. He’ll smell it — ‘Aw, man, that’s pretty good.’ He’ll give me my money, and I’ll say, ‘Take it easy.’”

Stew, freshman exploratory major, started selling marijuana as an experiment when he was 15 years old, and it turned into his way of life.

“I’ll have people hit me up through the day. ‘I need this, I need that.’ So I’m gonna swing by their house or meet them somewhere, drop it off to them,” Stew said. “I’m picking up $15 from someone to $500. And then, normally I’ll just hang out, get high with my friends, go to the library, go to work. It’s really a normal life, but you’ll just have people who will hit you up and say, ‘Hey, can I come grab a bag off of you?’”

Stew works as a pizza deliveryman and said his income doesn’t compare to the quick and easy money he makes dealing drugs.

“I could work a normal job, and I do work a normal job, and I get a $300 pay check every two weeks,” Stew said. “Honestly, if I wanted to make $300, I could make $300 in a day, two days, selling weed.

“How it works is, obviously, I am going to have to find someone who I get my supply from because someone at my level is normally getting from an ounce to a quarter pound, and then you piece that off. You sell it by the gram, you sell it by the eighth, and that’s how you make your money. And then when you’re out, call my dude up, and he’ll have it.”

Stew’s illegal activity was interrupted the day a cop pulled him over with an ounce of marijuana, bags and a scale in his car.

“I get arrested, I get taken down to the station, I get three phone calls,” Stew said. “Now, I had $800 on me, and whenever the cops arrest you and you get involved with drugs, they are able to take your money. So, I took my money and shoved it in my ass.”

Stew’s run-in with the police didn’t deter him from his illegal activities. In fact, it made him more knowledgeable.

“I got arrested because it was late at night; I got lost, rolled through a stop sign. That’s why I got pulled over,” Stew said. “If I was there at nine in the morning, or noon, instead of 11 at night, the situation never would have happened, because it’s broad daylight. But, at night, everything has suspicions. It’s a cat-and-mouse game.”

Stew said he could have spent 90 days in jail and six months on probation, but because he was a minor, his sentence was 30 days of parental house arrest.


Stew said the money he makes as a drug dealer is hardly comparable to a supplier’s income.

“Where the money is at, is putting 30, 40 plants in your basement and each plant harvesting half a pound and selling each of that half pound for $1500,” Stew said. “You can have three years of harvests and be set for the rest of your life. Money: it’s what makes the world go round.”

The supplier is rarely in contact with every dealer who sells his product and Jones, a senior psychology major, is one of the select few who was working directly with a grower.

Smoke and hair clippings replaced cars and gardening tools in the garage where Jones used to smoked marijuana while his friend, Ed, cut his hair.

“There would just be mad dudes in there, just chilling, smoking and talking,” Jones said. “I mean, it was fun because there would be conversations in there about sports, music, you know? It got pretty real in there.”

Jones said he used to pay $10 for a haircut before a high school basketball teammate told him about free cuts at “Ed’s garage” three years ago. Jones’ friend, who grows his own marijuana, introduced Jones to more than the multi-purpose barbershop. He helped Jones start selling marijuana when he was a freshman in high school.

“I grew up with the real, like, rich, white-ass neighborhood, and he was gangster-type, hood-type,” Jones said. “So, he said, ‘OK, you know all these mother fuckers, and I have this shit.’ And that’s how we started out.”

Jones stopped selling so he could play high school basketball, but when he was a sophomore in college, he started “smoking heavy” and dealing marijuana again.

He usually bought a pound of marijuana from his friend for $1,000, sold it and profited an average of $600. However, last spring semester, Jones paid $3,000 for three pounds of marijuana, and his old teammate only gave him one pound.

“He was going to try to pay me back, but I didn’t get it, no,” Jones said. “I was still trying to get it, and I went there in the summer, and that’s when the whole ordeal happened when I was driving around with a hooker in the car.”

Jones said last summer his high school friend “was really seriously pimping prostitutes at cheap motels.” When Jones went to get the money he was owed, his friend tried to involve him in the scandal.

“He was like, ‘Ok, I’ve got a way to pay you back,’ and this girl comes in and she’s, like, a real prostitute, wearing some dirty-ass clothes and a short-ass skirt, high heels and dreadlocks. He was like, ‘Go to these bars, she’s gonna make the the money I owe you.’ I was like ‘Dude, I can’t do this shit, man,’ and he’s like, ‘You want the money don’t you?’”

Jones said that night, after driving to different bars in Cleveland, he took his friend and female passenger to a motel.

“John pulled up — this big, fat, black dude, and then he went in there [with her],” Jones said. “She called me and said John was done. We went over, picked her up, he kept $80 and gave her $20.”

Jones said he never got the money he was owed and the only reimbursement his friend gave him was for gas and food.

The same weekend, Jones’ friend showed him where he kept his drug supply. Jones said his friend used to buy low-class houses and fixed them up to sell. There was one house his old teammate didn’t intend on renovating, and instead, he turned it into a “weed factory.” Jones said he was probably the only person who ever got to see it.

“From the outside it looked like a rundown crack house, but he owned it and that was his cover up,” Jones said. “He took me in there, took me in the basement and the whole basement was just filled with plants, and I asked him if he had any guns, and he said ‘Yeah, I’ve got enough ammunition to go to war with the army.’”

Jones said his friend was growing 45 to 50 marijuana plants in the house’s basement, and he recalled a time when his friend had $136,000 in cash “all in his possession at one time.”

Jones said eventually, however, his friend spent most of his money on a lawyer after he was caught with three pounds of marijuana at Bowling Green last summer.

He and his old teammate started to fall out of contact after that, so now Jones gets a smaller drug supply from friends in Kent. He buys a half-ounce of marijuana for $140, sells it by the gram and makes $200 back, profiting $60 a week. Jones said this allows him to smoke for free every day with friends.

“It’s mostly at my place that we smoke at, because my place is just a chill spot; [we] watch TV,” Jones said. “I cook too, so if people come through they might get a nice, free chicken dinner.”

Jones said the amount of drugs he deals now is ideal for a college student. However, after graduation, Jones said he plans on growing his own marijuana.

“It will probably be something small in my closet, because the people who get caught are the people who just go straight out of control,” Jones said. “Like, they’ve got weed everywhere, guns everywhere, money everywhere. Those are the kind of people who get caught.”

Contact Alyssa Morlacci at [email protected].