Drug use and college life

Editor’s Note: Today’s report on drug use is meant to examine the illegal activity among University students. The identities of those who spoke about dealing and using drugs have been changed to encourage them to tell their stories.

by Matthew Gruchow

The fragrance of Peter’s profession permeates from the long dark curls of his hair. The scent of the marijuana he sells to help pay for his University classes wafts from his loose clothing like cologne.

He is friendly, articulate and able to wax poetic on literature. He is an underground music scene connoisseur.

At 21 years old, this student studies English and said he is undoubtedly the largest marijuana supplier and seller to University students.

His buyers, predominantly students, form a burgeoning drug culture that Peter said thrives, although University authorities believe that drug use is not a significant concern.

As of September, University police have reported 110 drug offenses this year on their Web site. Of those, 105 were marijuana-related incidents.

When Peter began dealing drugs on and near campus, he said he envisioned a business based on nonviolence that offers a good product at a fair price.

“I watched my friends get ripped off all the time, not even get the amount of pot they paid for, and pay too much for it,” Peter said.

For the past three years, Peter has built a multi-tiered drug network of distributors and suppliers, he said.

He has 10 to 20 distributors who span his organization across Minnesota and into Iowa, Wisconsin, and North and South Dakota, he said.

“It’s almost gotten too big, you know,” Peter said. “I don’t go to bars because everywhere I go there’s a bunch of people who know me and know what I do.”

Peter said he can make between $300 and $500 a day, earning about $30,000 annually.

There are days when his home phone and cell phone seem to ring constantly with requests, sending him to appointments throughout the Twin Cities. He occasionally visits residence halls and area student homes.

A Day in the Life

Peter balances classes and dealing pot every day, he said.

As his network grows, academics have taken a back seat to drugs and dealing, he said.

Peter grew up poor, driving his desire to be financially independent, he said.

When he came to college, he said he was determined not to be a poor college student who faces increasingly expensive tuition rates.

Becoming a drug dealer also fit his desire to lead an existence worth writing about later, he said.

“Looking at the heroes of literature that influenced me, like (Jack) Kerouac and stuff like that, really made me decide that I wasn’t going to have (anything) to say unless I lived this slightly abnormal life,” he said.

It is a life in which he has been robbed of his drug stash and money at gun point, he said.

The scope of Peter’s clientele predominantly includes both students and University staff, such as janitors and other support staff, he said.

While he said he is not proud of being a dealer, it has become a hard life to leave because his client base keeps growing and he is making more money.

“I’ve never been too proud to be a dealer, which I think a lot of people are,” Peter said. “But (there is) too much money in it. It’s so hard to stop, so hard.”

Peter said he has spent a lot of time covering his tracks and recognizes the law could seize him any time, and place him behind prison bars for years.

A criminal background check shows that Peter has no drug-related offenses in Hennepin County.

Campus Culture

Marijuana use will continue to be the most popular drug of use for students, Peter said. Harder drugs such as acid, cocaine and methamphetamine are less prevalent, he said.

There is a connection between marijuana use and intellectualism, Peter said.

“It also seems to me that when I’m on certain drugs and when other people are on certain drugs they get more introspective and it just makes people deeper than alcohol does,” Peter said.

The spiritual side of drug use can expand consciousness, he said.

“(It’s) just because drug users are willing to look at the big picture,” he said.

He said those willing to try using drugs might be expressing a simple desire for independent thought.

The concert venues of the underground music scene are popular places for drug use, he said.

Students buy and sell drugs in the residence halls, but proximity to police makes many dealers go off campus, he said.

As a provider who was willing to deal on campus, Peter said his initial business success happened because other dealers want to stay off campus.

“So many people were afraid of getting involved in dealing on campus for all the reasons that the cops could be at your room in five minutes,” Peter said.

Into the Future

Minneapolis and University police records show drug-related offenses have steadily increased since 2001.

Peter said marijuana and cocaine continue to be the drugs of choice at the University.

It will continue to be a profitable industry despite police efforts to halt its growth, he said. Any police crackdown on drug use at the University would likely be ineffective, he said.

“No matter how many you bust or get rid of, there’s always going to be more (dealers),” Peter said. “As long as the drugs are illegal, there will always be money to be made from it.”

An overcrowded Minnesota prison system and the increasing popularity of hard drugs like methamphetamines are taking attention from marijuana use, Peter said.

Society and law enforcement are focusing on the harder drugs, he said.

“People are like, ‘We’re lucky if kids are only potheads. We’re lucky if they’re just spending money on pot,’ ” Peter said.

Though Peter plans to quit dealing when he graduates, asking him to look into the future to spy a day when he will have a more normal life is futile.

“The way I live my life is too in the moment,” Peter said. “I always have to worry about what’s in my trunk. I have to worry about everything around me and the people I’m talking to Ö I don’t get a chance to worry about my future really.”