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Where Are They Now? 

In the wake of marijuana legalization, a writer sets out to find his former dealers—and some ugly truths

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Fukushima is the best description of Rob. A toxic calamity of indefinite proportions, insatiable destruction spreading since 2011—when I last bought weed from him.

R

ob was a drug-fueled mess, his attention span mere nanoseconds until another sound or half-thought struck, his ramshackle home evidence of assorted experiments in construction: Broken and poorly repaired siding; horseshoe pits that his neighbors surely despised. I still dream with dread of having to visit Rob's home on Bend's west side, nightmare awareness that the next knock on his door could mean a DEA bust or home invasion.

Rob wasn't just dealing marijuana. Moreso after 2015, when dispensaries sprang up, choice strains being offered by overly polite "budtenders" using the proper lingo, insisting that we say "flowers" instead of "weed" when browsing, logos on their matching shirts. No clone of Diesel and White Widow could explain Rob's unlimited energy at all hours, how happy he was to see me whenever I invaded Bend, nor the desperation I felt to depart quickly but soon stuck for another taste before escaping. I was the anomaly; it was Rob's other customers that most troubled me, rapid taps on the door and quick conversations, tight fists exchanging what only Rob and they knew...

This made me the most anxious. Understandably. And this trepidation only increased when I realized that I'd have to again visit Rob's home, seeing more broken siding and probably horseshoes rusting amid overgrown pits. To view his ecstatic smile once more, that blissful welcome into his dark living room, the pungent smell of skunk and something resembling burnt plastic.

These days, I could go to a dispensary, sure, as I have many times before, but this time I was seeking my former drug dealers in order to understand how they've adapted to weed being legal. With some black markets supposedly ceased, what are they doing now?

T

o my dismay, I found that Rob is gone. His old home repaired, pits unearthed, new siding no less! Surely Rob didn't do this work; perhaps Bend's latest rebirth between another housing crash allowed him to sell out and escape?! Puerto Rico? Hawaii? Dodge City?

No clues. So I tracked down Rob's former girlfriend, the sole sweetness in that depraved dealer's house and, perhaps, the only reason why I used him in the first place. Truth be told, she always seemed like a hostage, and admits that much today. After escaping Rob, she now sees things so much clearer: No more migraines, life so much easier and productive now that she needn't live in fear of arrest, more drug-induced abuse, verbal or worse. Rob wasn't a good guy—we all knew that, but what befell my former dealer — and her boyfriend — is a story of warning in the age of legalization.

"He's either in a barrel in the ocean or buried in the desert."

I laughed when she said this. She didn't join me.

Welcome to the commercialization of weed. And this

makes my search for my former dealers all the more

difficult. One promised me the "purest high in the

Cascades" as I went to tour his grow outside Sisters.

As far as his former girlfriend could uncover, Rob diversified from low-margin legal weed, getting deeper into cocaine and pills, deeper into debt to his suppliers, too. So, when he couldn't pay, he fled. And they found him; they always do. Now Rob's whereabouts are unknown, the ocean or desert, another casualty of drugs, legal and otherwise, an insatiable force of destruction has been snuffed.

S

adly, lives are still being lost despite the legalization of marijuana—the black market's assumed castration. According to a Forbes report on the marijuana market, wholesale prices per pound have plummeted as more states legalize recreational use: $2,500 to $1,000 on average in 2016 alone. Such a crash pinches profits and makes the risk of running pounds not worth it... Spot pricing in 2017 (yes, marijuana is now a commodity like crude oil, with speculators waging bets) suggest a slight upswing, hovering around $1,600 per pound retail, based on supply and demand. Part of this increase was highly public, with Nevada officials recently declaring a "state of emergency" due to a lack of marijuana supply for dispensaries post-legalization. Similarly, Washington utterly underestimated the demand for edibles and tinctures, due to older recreational users' reluctance to smoke.

Welcome to the commercialization of weed. And this makes my search for my former dealers all the more difficult. One promised me the "purest high in the Cascades" as I went to tour his grow outside Sisters. Hours later, still gasping and splashing my face from the Metolius, I had to admit he was right. But (and there's always a "but" in this game) he wouldn't go on record, saying only that the high-end marijuana strains he grows are immune to the market, customers still flock to buy his latest crop, to avoid paying taxes, loyal to the kinship they have developed over the years.

In Brooklyn, where I sometimes reside, I've been using the same guy for years. Bike delivery is bliss, and he arrives at the appointed time, armed with choice samples of smoke, edibles and whatever else I may find interesting. It's expensive, an eighth usually costing $80, and the requisite tip guaranteeing that any home visit will cost at least $100.

While these prices may shock many in Oregon, that's New York City, where a 50 percent premium on a cocktail or hotdog is a given. Adding to insult, New York passed the most business-friendly and anti-medical marijuana "legalization" bill in America last year. No smoking, no growing, only oils and tinctures allowed, 20 dispensaries total across the state, run and supplied by secretly chosen corporations that will soon control the entire East Coast of America. Billed as showing compassion to those who need weed (and ignoring cash-only transactions and massive distance between dispensaries), this law seems to have been written by the black market, guaranteeing that all recreational use will remain utterly ignored.

E

mbrace your freedom, Oregon. Forget your former dealer and meet the new, shiny and licensed, with a green cross out front. Oregon statistics show that barely 30 percent of marijuana use is medical, and this downward trend will only continue, as 80 percent of the 300 dispensaries across Oregon have applied to sell for recreational use.

Legalization was sold as a cure, helping those who need the emerging medical benefits of marijuana while bringing from the shadows an industry that elected officials always knew existed, but eventually acknowledged in order to raise tax revenue. Yes, these are well-paying jobs (budtenders make $16.50 per hour on average a recent government study showed) in a growth industry (80 percent employment increase in the past year). Yet the black market remains, secret lives and dark money, far more than weed available for the eager user.

There's an unknown body in the ocean or buried in the desert that had a name.

Rob was no martyr, rather another casualty to our supposed green revolution. So tip well the next time you buy some flowers, then go to your secret spot and get your fix.

Brad Lockwood is the award-winning author of 12 books, including the Bend-based novel, "Blue Bucket," and the newly released young adult series, "Orphan."


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