A few brief words about the length of this document: I had several readers give me their feedback before I posted this writeup. The general consensus before reading the writeup was: "4500 words on buying drugs is pretty excessive." The general consensus after reading the writeup was: "Huh, my initial bias was incorrect: This writeup wasn't pointless and, at the very least, it obviates the need for future writeups on this topic." I have written this so that it would be the compleat reference on this matter and should table further discussion from now until the end of time. As much as possible, I have tried to eliminate redundancy, move tangential discussion into footnotes, and break this writeup into small sections for easy browsing.
For those who downvote nodes condoning drugs, please read this writeup first before downvoting it. It is about the culture surrounding the open-air drug trade, and not about encouraging drug use. If the moral is not made strongly enough by the information in this writeup, let me clearly state it up front:
Do not buy drugs in an open-air market. It is stupid. You are likely to get ripped off and/or be arrested.
I hope, in presenting this writeup, that readers can vicariously experience the rush of buying drugs in an open-air market, so that they do not need to try it themselves.
Although this document is about open-air markets in general, most of my experience in the matter comes from buying drugs in Washington Square Park, arguably the quintessential open-air drug market. Washington Square Park exists as a strange singularity in the universe (or, the USA at least) which has an open and thriving black market serving victimless criminals. Drugs are sold, bought, and consumed openly. Any stroll through the park will entail being accosted and offered "smoke" at least two times. Prostitutes will ask you if you need a "date." Everyone knows it, even the police.1
Two years ago, I spent the summer in New York City living on the Upper East Side. For want of another means of rapidly procuring marijuana (especially at 4am, when my roommate and I usually ran out), I purchased marijuana (and occasionally other drugs, but they were nearly all bunk) in Washington Square Park two or three times a week for a three-month period. So, given that I have done this over twenty-five times, I speak from experience and I am convinced that there is little else to say on this matter that is not covered in this writeup.2
Contrary to popular belief and NYC urban myths, it is possible to get decent drugs in Washington Square Park and not get massively overcharged doing so. With that said, you are going to get ripped off. Deal with it. You need drugs and that is why you are shopping for drugs in an open-air market in the first place.
This guide should help make sure you minimize the amount by which you are ripped off and that, for whatever amount of money you spend, you at least get a decent high out of the experience.
What one can learn from buying drugs in public
If you have no experience with business, buying drugs in an open-air market will be a crash course in negotiation.
Additionally, you will be presented with irrefutable evidence that business relationships (as well as human phenomena, if you are inclined to believe Friedrich Nietzsche) are essentially a nexus of power. When conducting black-market negotiation, there is no consensual power system in place (i.e. the legal system). The power of government is, for most law-abiding citizens, such an ingrained way of thinking that they take government for granted instead of realizing it as an entity that derives its authority merely from mass consensus. The black market is clearly a free-for-all.
The nature of an open-air black market
Assuming you know what you are doing, this is a buyer's market. There is an enormous amount of competition among sellers;3 Many people will try to sell you drugs as you walk through the park.
The most important feature of this buyer's market is that if you are calm, collected, informed consumer, you can get a (relatively) good deal. For example, at any time, you can threaten to walk away unless the quantity is upped. You can usually get somewhere between 25% to 50% more than the initial offer.
The reason most people get ripped off is that they are too scared to get a good deal. Drug dealers can smell fear and will play upon it, using many forms of tacit intimidation to get you to make a hasty and ill-advised purchase. In their line of work, this is the art and it's how they make much of their profit.
How not to get arrested
There is no way not to get arrested.
In Washington Square Park, there are cameras everywhere.4 Your not getting arrested is solely predicated upon the good will of the law enforcement officials, who are too busy dealing with real criminals to pursue low level drug traffickers.5
With that said:
Of course, you are more likely to get arrested while the sun is up. Everyone seems more shady at a late hour, and it is more difficult to spy upon you from afar.
Additionally, the beginning and the end (especially) the end of the month is the worst possible time to commit an illegal act openly. Police actively pursue open drug selling and use, as they have to fill quotas.6
Alternative options to buying drugs in an open-air market
Do not buy drugs in an open-air market. It is stupid. You are likely to get ripped off and/or be arrested.
If you want drugs, talk to hip people. Make friends. New York City is an enormously tolerant society with a disproportionate number of drug users.7
One option is to meet a "friend" who only hooks up "friends".
Tea heads are not like junkies. A junky hand you the money, takes his junk and cuts. But tea heads don't do thing that way. They expect the peddler to light them up and sit around talking for half an hour to sell two dollars' worth of weed. If you come right to the point, they say you are a "bring down." In fact, a peddler should not come right out and say he is a peddler. No, he just scores for a few good "cats" and "chicks" because he is viperish [into marijuana]. Everyone knows that he himself is the connection, but it is bad form to say so. God knows why. To me, tea heads are unfathomable.
~William S. Burroughs, "Junky"
Or, better yet, you can get the number of a delivery service. If you are not from the area, let me briefly explain this concept: You call a number and someone stops by your place with the goods. Except instead of Chinese food or pizza, the delivery boy comes bearing contraband, typically marijuana or cocaine. (Other drugs do not have a market of wealthy customers large enough to warrant the risk of running a delivery service, but the more upscale ones will occasionally have other drugs.) Huzzah! Yes, it is true. New York City kicks ass.
Some delivery services insist you meet them at the corner, and they pull up in a large black Lincoln Continental with dark tinted windows, and insist you jump in as they drive you around the block. The nicer delivery services, such as one my friends used to use, (the de facto delivery service of the Screen Actor's Guild/Screen Director's Guild in New York City8) will send a delivery boy up to your seventh floor walk-up studio and he will open a bag with ten different strains in pre-measured containers and chat will you about the genetics. Just like Half Baked.
Where'd you go to, weed college?
~Thurgood (David Chappelle) to delivery boy, "Half Baked"
With a delivery service, you pay a hefty mark up, but many people find it well worth the convenience and peace of mind concerning product quality and legal security.
If all else fails and you find yourself repeatedly buying drugs in the park, for God's sake at least find a dealer who is there most of the time, as he will not rip you off (at least, not blatantly), since he knows that he will make more money by having you as a repeat customer.
What drugs to buy in an open-air market
Only trees, indo, chronic, ganja, herb, bud, buds, smoke, cannabis, weed, pot, sinsemilla, marijuana, grass, reefer, tea, wacky tabacky, or mary jane. (Please don't use those last four terms or your kids will laugh at you for being hopelessly un-hip.)
Not hash. And definitely nothing else.
With any drug besides decent to high-grade marijuana, you cannot determine merely by inspection (without ingesting it). Given its uncommon appearance and distinct smell, sinsemilla (literally, "without seeds") marijuana is the only drug cheaper to create legitimately than as a bogus imitation.
What kind of marijuana you are looking for (No pun intended)
Assuming that you are enough of a pothead to want to risk your freedom to buy weed in the park, you probably know what good weed is. You will want to look at the weed and smell it to ensure that you are not blatantly ripped off.
Additionally, you want to insist upon kind bud or weed without seeds (sinsemilla).
As low quality seedy weed has no smell and is generally low potency, it may be sprayed with all sorts of things, including pesticides and herbicides, by Mexican weed farmers who are more interested in increasing their yield than protecting your health. (Mexico has the world's shitty weed markets cornered.) Best case scenario, low-quality weed (sprayed or not) will temporarily give you the feeling that you got your money's worth. It will give you a cheap high and make you feel blunted and fuzzy for half an hour, and then wear off.
Given that open-air drug dealers who sell legitimate drugs make their money by ripping you off on quantity, you get the best deal by buying high quality pot. The reasoning is essentially that dealers will attempt to give you the bare minimum quantity for which you will hand over your money. This quantity is more-or-less constant, as it is based upon buyer prejudice against what is too little weed to receive for a given amount of money. Hence, higher quality for equivalent quantity equals better deal.
How to select a drug dealer
Only buy drugs from someone who offers you drugs. Narcs (undercover narcotics officers) cannot preemptively offer you drugs; This is entrapment. Assuming that you yourself do not look like a narc (and sometimes, even if you do) drug dealers will trip over themselves to offer you drugs.
The most common terms in current drug dealer parlance used to solicit a drug transaction are "smoke" (perhaps prevalent because of its ambiguity) and, less frequently, "indo", "trees", and "bud".
Rollin' down the street, smokin' indo, sippin' on gin and
With my mind on my money and my money on my mind
~ Snoop Doggy Dogg, "Gin and Juice"
Most drug dealers are black males.9 Do not assume that white dealers are less shady. Do not assume that female dealers are less shady. They are not. All of them want money, your money, as much of it as possible. Indeed, the most successful drug dealers are those that seem non-threatening and lull you into a false sense of friendship. I have been ripped off by drug dealers of all creeds and genders.
For consistency, I will use masculine pronouns to describe dealers.
As a matter of preference, I usually choose personable, smooth-talking drug dealers over thugs. While this is a mere suspicion, unsubstantiated by concrete evidence, I imagine that drug dealers who make their money based upon their negotiating skills (and not intimidation) are more likely to stick around the park and negotiate deals all day, rather than just jack people and run.
Your negotiation face and state of mind
Cool. Calm. Collected. You and your ability to stay focused on the objective at hand (get the most drugs for the least money) are the primary factors that determine how well the deal will go.
Drug dealers will play upon your fear of getting arrested to get you to make an hasty decision. As such, at all times you need to be firm and direct about your demands as a prospective buyer, as well as relatively brazen in the face of potential arrest and imprisonment. If you shudder and wither at hard bargaining and tough verbal opposition, or are too worried about being arrested to conduct yourself rationally, this is not the game for you. Move on and save yourself some money. Or lose some money in the name of developing these qualities. It's your money. Money, money, money.
There are two basic perspectives on conducting illegal activities. Bear with me because, even though I am making sweeping generalizations that are not precisely true in every conceivable circumstance, the underlying point rings true:
Most law-abiding citizens have a wrenching sense of wrong-doing while breaking the law and attempt to mitigate this feeling as much as possible by openly breaking the law as little as possible. Arrest is the most mortifying of experiences. Committing illegal acts entails an emotional and moral burden.
Most criminals approach the process of law-breaking casually and rationally, even if their reasons for breaking the law is irrational and emotional. Arrest is merely the annoying consequence of bad luck. The logic of performing an illegal action is almost utilitarian in its reductionism: An illegal action is performed if the pleasure of the act is greater than or equal to the displeasure of being imprisoned multiplied by the estimated probability of being arrested.10 Ultimately, the illegality of the action is irrelevant and entails no emotional or moral consequence.
As such, the more you can relax and meld with the mindset of a criminal, the more rationally you will be able to conduct your transaction and the better deal you will get. The better deal you will get, the more drugs you will have. Drugs, drugs, drugs.
The most common scam
To illustrate the importance of having a straight game face and imperturbably calm attitude, I will describe the most common blatant scam employed by drug dealers. This scam has been successfully run on me about five or so times. Each time it does, a little piece of you dies and the rest of you hardens. At some point, whatever remains of you becomes totally resilient.
This scam (as does every scam in their playbook) plays on getting you to make an irrational decision, usually based upon fear of getting arrested. Essentially, it revolves around the drug dealer very anxiously saying: "Quickly, quickly! Give me your money, take this thing!" (or something along these lines)
In case you haven't figured it out, "this thing" is a party flyer11 folded up to conceal bits of paper inside. Or half the weed you were promised. Or some sort of weed, but definitely not a strain of Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica. Or nothing.
Sometimes the drug dealer will leave to get "your drugs", return, rush by you in a hurry, drop a folded-up flyer on the ground and nervously say: "Quickly, quickly! Give me your money, take that thing, and put it in your sock!"
Or, he may be walking down the street with you and huddle over himself to measure the weight, preventing bystanders (and you, for that matter) from watching him. He will then casually hand you the folded flyer and ask for the money, knowing fully well that you are too timid to impugn his honesty and open display drugs on the street by checking the item.
You get the picture.
Preparing to make the deal
Make sure you are sober and are not "holding" (carrying other drugs). The former precaution makes it less easy for drug dealers to rip you off. The latter precaution minimizes the potential jail time you face if you are arrested.
Figure out how much you want to buy. This amount should be determined by how much you want to spend and not by weight. Regardless of the quantity the dealer says, it will be light. You want to buy somewhere between $20 and $40 worth of marijuana. For less than $20, you probably not be able to find anyone willing to risk jail time to sell. For more than $40, your inability to eyeball the quantity and get a good deal will balloon the amount of money by which you are ripped off. A decent deal on $20 of marijuana will get you and three of your friends one decent high, or you yourself four highs if you are the type to hoard your drugs.12
Keep in mind that dealers will pressure you to buy more than you propose to buy. If you agree to this offer, you can consent with the proviso that he increase the quantity disproportionately (e.g. get twice as much weed for only a 50% increase in price. You do the math.). As such, by getting him to propose a price increase, you can get a better deal. Figure out in advance with what amount you will start the bargaining. This should be about $10 less than you intend to spend.
Also, figure out what the maximum you are willing to spend is, if it looks like you can get a good deal by haggling. You may be able to get a better deal by spending more, but you may also find that you were taken for a ride. Set a clear upper limit in your mind. Remember, this situation is a gamble: Your skill can increase your odds, but never bet more than you are willing to lose.
Crumple some bills and put them in your pockets. As this is fairly suspicious behavior, do this a few blocks away from the park. Make sure that you can easily reach in and grab exactly the amount you need, and that you can grab different quantities of money, depending upon where the bargaining takes you.13
The procedure (The actual deal)
Okay, you're ready to buy drugs. Or are you?
Walk through the park and be offered drugs by someone who looks only slightly shady, not totally shady. Ask him if he has "kind bud."14 If he says he has "good" weed but is cagey about being more descriptive, insist that you only want weed without seeds, and move on. Otherwise, tell him how much you want and perhaps briefly haggle about quantity and price.
Ask to see what he's got and smell it. You should already know what decent weed should look and smell like; These are not the proper circumstances to see marijuana up close for the first time. If his "pot" does not look like buds or smell like marijuana, then back off from the deal. If the weed has seeds, then back off from the deal. If he gives you an hard time, tell him that you are only looking for dank buds. This should diffuse a potential argument, as he will feel like a fool trying to convince you that shitty weed is actually good weed if you sound like you know what you're talking about and not one to get hood-winked.
Make some small talk and ask his name. Ask him if he is around the park often and, if not, where you can find him. Ask him if afterwards you can get his pager number. Tell him about how you just got into the city and how you need a hookup, and that if his shit is good, you will come back for more. Say this regardless of whether it is true or not.
He may or may not run off to get the weed, depending upon whether he carries it on him.
When he gets back you will probably take a short walk, since there are cameras all over the park and surveillance, in these peculiar modern times, is a widespread common phobia, especially for criminals.
Now, here's the important part. Pay attention. This is essential, but it requires cojones. Promise yourself in advance that you will do this, or do not even bother making a drug deal in public. You were not cut out for it and you are one of the suckers that give the drug dealers most of their income:
You must look at and smell the weed for which you are going to exchange your money.
Let me say that one more time, with emphasis.
You must look at and smell the weed for which you are going to exchange your money.
Not the weed that he showed you earlier. Not the weed you envision in your mind. All of, and no more than, the specific weed for which you are going to exchange your money.
Ignoring this advice is the reason most people get ripped off. Heeding this advice requires more flagrant disregard for the law and/or negotiating firmness than most people have. Typical potheads do not hold firm in negotiating with aggressive, dominating drug dealers. And typical businessmen do not smoke weed. The ones that do do not buy their weed in an open-air market.
Regardless of how much weed you see, you are being ripped off. As such, insist that you get more weed ("Throw in a few more buds"). If this cannot be done (because he has no more on him, which is rarely the case), insist that you pay less. If neither can be done, say you are not satisfied and turn around. He will probably change his mind and make the deal more favorable to you. If not, there are many more drug dealers who would be more than willing to help you. Remember, this is a buyer's market.
Once you are about to make the handoff, mentally confirm for yourself that you looked at and smelled the weed for which you are going to exchange your money.15
Make the exchange of money and drugs more or less simultaneously. Try to make it look like you are shaking hands.
If the deal goes sour
If all goes well, this section should be irrelevant. But, for the sake of compleatness, I will cover this eventuality.
You may find yourself in the circumstance that, despite following (or, more likely, ignoring) the above instructions, you were somehow stiffed on substance quality, substance quantity, nature of the substance, or receipt of any substance. And you may find yourself feeling strangely angry.
As long as you keep your receipt, this should be no problem.
In all seriousness, once the money leaves your hand, you will have great difficulty getting it back. Remember, this is a power system we are dealing with. Spend a minute thinking about how you would successfully coerce someone into giving you money (ignoring the fact that you have a verbal contract with this person). It is more difficult than you think.16
If an intentional scam was pulled on you (i.e. one in which you realize that you were scammed within the next few minutes), you will not find the dealer when you return to the park. Chalk it up to experience.17
If the deal goes well (Post-purchase procedure)
Assuming the deal went (relatively) well, you now should have marijuana in your possession. Congratulations! You now possess incriminating physical evidence!
If you have it in several little baggies, consolidate them to one baggie. (If you are picked up by the police at some point in the future, and they want to give you an hard time, they can charge you with for intent to distribute if you keep it in several baggies.) This precaution should apply to any marijuana you have, whether on your person, at your residence, or otherwise. Of course, if you have more than a certain quantity (depends upon state), intent to distribute is automatic.
Find a safe place to smoke, and drift away.
All of the drug dealers have strange names: "Paradise", "Lunch", most colors (especially "Black" and "Red"), &tc. When they saw my (short) roommate in the park, they would look at him and yell "Hey! Shorty!" to get his attention and see if he would give the metaphorical or literal nod, meaning "Yes, I am interested in hearing your drugs sales pitch."
One day, he and I were sitting by the fountain and day-dreaming about what our drug names could be. Clearly, our Christian names clearly do not suffice; They lack the requisite shadiness. For reasons I never completely understood, he was fine with "Shorty". I mentioned my friend Whit, whose name sounds punchy and sharp albeit somewhat pretentious, given its homophone. My roommate, in a haze of marijuana inebriation, thought I had said "wick". Considering both my inflammatory personality and my hair, which at that point in my life I wore bleached white and spiked up, wick was a perfect nom de fume
1Giuliani-era crackdowns on crime were directed towards quality of life initiatives that make you feel safe in Manhattan. Be that as it may, it's still dead simple to score in Washington Square Park. Nowadays, you just feel safe doing it.
2Please note that nowadays, I never buy drugs in public any more. This is primarily due to a personal fear of arrest that set in as I aged.
3To wit: The best deal I ever got was one night when I and two new lady friends were stopped in front of a church, not a block from Washington Square Park, and simultaneously accosted by three separate drug dealers. So, we stopped, sat on the steps of the church, and inspected their wares. We smelled each person's stash and then had them engage in a bidding war for our business. We finally bought the highest quality marijuana for a third the price we would usually pay, from a gnarled one-eyed man. (The other eye was stitched up.) As we departed, he added: "I've also got some great crack!", but we were forced to decline. (Meanwhile, one of the other dealers ran off in a huff, upset at being outbid, crying "wee wee wee" all the way home.) To this day, this was the best deal I have ever received on a low quantity of marijuana, from any channel.
4Actually, there are over 2000 surveillance cameras monitoring the streets of Manhattan, but I bet you didn't know that. For their locations, visit: http://www.mediaeater.com/cameras/
5Police concentrating on violent crime is also the reason that it is next to impossible to be pulled over for speeding in NYC. Reckless driving, now that's another story...
6koreykruse says that, of the several NYC police officers he has asked about quotas, all have said that there are no quotas. The one police officer I have asked about the matter says that quotas do exist and that the end of the month sees a disproportionate number of arrests of low-level drug buyers/sellers/consumers who break the law in public. I have no concrete evidence for or against the existence of quotas. It goes without saying for all the information contained in this writeup, but especially for this particular issue, that you and you alone can judge your acceptable risk level.
7NYU, whose campus hedges Washington Square Park, was ranked the number 1 out of 331 colleges in the "reefer madness" category of a 2001 report by the Princeton Review. As such, one of the 36,000 students may be sympathetic to your plight.
8I shit you not.
9This is not a statement of racism or misandry/misogyny. Over 75%, i.e. most, of the drug dealers in Washington Square Park are black males. Plain and simple.
10The values therein may be utterly skewed by irrational motivations, e.g. "I need some fucking rock right now," but the calculus is impeccable, much like how your decision to chat with a member of the opposite sex involves variables determined emotionally, but your decision is based upon a precise weighting and comparison of these variables.
11Many dealers do not carry baggies, as they fear that it is incriminating evidence of intent to distribute. Party flyers (which are typically strewn everywhere) are the preferred distribution container for those dealers who do not carry baggies. Although finding a dealer selling baggies containing pre-measured weight makes it simpler to negotiate, do not assume that party flyer carrying dealers are more likely to rip you off or slip you bunk drugs. To repeat a point that cannot be repeated enough, the primary factors that determine how well the deal will go are you and your ability to stay focused on the objective at hand.
12Astute readers with notice that, barring malt liquor, marijuana is truly the cheapest high.
13If you wish to rip off the drug dealer, you can wrap a ten around several ones and fold it up a lot. (This is similar to the strategy employed by certain shady dealers to convince you that a folded-up flyer containing bit of paper actually contains drugs.) Doing so is a risky proposition and you are intentionally robbing the poverty-sticken, who incidentally also are potentially violent criminals. So this course of action is contraindicated for many reasons.
14Although what he gives you may not been kind bud per se, at least he will not try to convince you that you need his brown mexican brick weed which weight is more than forty percent seeds and stems.
15If you did not leave this park during the deal, and you and the dealer are sitting on a bench, he may sometimes drop the drugs on the ground. This stems from the fallacious belief that if they do not hand it to you directly, they are not guilty of distribution. Just make sure that he dropped the weed that you looked at and smelled, not weed that he prepared for you outside of your presence.
16There is one known case where someone successfully recovered money after being ripped off:
One of my friends, a thug, got blatantly ripped off. The drug dealer stuck around to taunt him about it, which they sometimes will, if they suspect you will not be able to do anything about it. They typically carry knives, so they are not scared of an altercation with other thugs. My friend, knowing this fact fully well, started to shake and almost foam at the mouth, looking at his hands, not focusing on the drug dealer at all, as if he were Dr. Bruce Banner about to turn into The Incredible Hulk. "Listen man, I don't want to freak out or anything, I just feel like I'm getting really angry..." and by this point, the drug dealer had forced the money back upon my friend and ran off.
I do not imagine that the above strategy would work for you unless you are also happen to be a thug.
17Depending upon how angry you are, you can threaten to start shouting: "Drug dealer!" and pointing at the culprit. (His claim that he just sold you drugs should fall upon deaf ears, because of inherent police prejudice.) But to do so is outside the spirit of engaging in such a transaction in the first place--choosing legal recourse is verboten and unconscionably violates the tacit arrangement you had, as opposed to breaking his legs with a pipe and ganking his stash and his loot. (This method, in a power system that excludes legal means of coercion, is an example of violence or threat thereof, one of the primary means of interpersonal coercion.)