Raider Students Flying High on Cash Crop

“Just say no to drugs.” The slogan that’s been pushed into the American consciousness for decades continues today. What Nancy Reagan started in the 1980’s has evolved into commercials with dogs that talk and deflated friends.

The idea is that through this campaign, young people will be conditioned to “just say no,” to the hooded scary man who offers them drugs.

But what happens when the dealer isn’t a stranger on the corner and the thing being offered is a legal substance–like marijuana is in Oregon and an increasing number of states? None of the Reagan videos showed a kid in biology class trying to sell weed in order keep his Xbox live subscription running.

Original artwork by Nick Hodges
Original artwork by Nick Hodges

With little trouble, The Siskiyou bumped into some of these individuals who sell weed to ask them about their entrepreneurial practices around cannabis at Southern Oregon University. What they’re doing is not specifically legal. Individuals are not allowed to sell marijuana yet. Also because the university receives federal dollars and marijuana is still federally illegal it can’t be kept or used on campus. It certainly can’t be sold.

The names of the cannabis sellers have been substituted as pseudonyms to protect their identities.

“I guess I’m not your stereotypical drug dealer,” TRUMP says while weighing out an ounce in his underwear and a button up flannel. Still under 21, the dealer has yet to even step into a dispensary and says if anything, Measure 91 has helped increase his business. “Decriminalization is making it more acceptable for kids coming from other states to try weed, even if they aren’t of legal age. It’s just in the culture here.”

TRUMP himself is an example of this theory. With his knowledge of strains and a successful business plan, one would suspect he’d been raised on a cannabis farm, but this isn’t the case as he hadn’t even tried marijuana until he came to SOU last year.

TRUMP explains one of the misconceptions about selling marijuana is the amount of money that he actually brings in. While dealing mostly in ounces and half ounces, TRUMP and his partner reinvest their money every few weeks to purchase another large quantity of weed from their supplier, an acquaintance they met last year who works at a grow site.
“My first rent check was paid in weed money, but now I usually use it to eat out or buy booze. I would need to sell a shit-load of it to live off of.”

With harvest season in full swing, the business plan has been operating smoothly and TRUMP can play his role as a middle man. By purchasing large quantities right from the source, he can get more product for his money and then break it down to distribute. The consistent clientele at his door include his friends, their friends and even other sellers who buy ounces to break down. Some of whom are tapped into the highest concentrated living area in Ashland: the dorms.

TRUMP says he doesn’t sell to get rich or as means to survive, but could see himself dealing marijuana to feed his Thai food habit until he graduates, “Right here is some of the cheapest weed in the world,” he says “If I wanted to make real money I’d be shipping it, but that’s sketch.”

Shipping cannabis through third party services is a high risk, high reward operation. As students spread across the country for college, they can compare weed prices between regions just as easily as they compare textbooks on Amazon. The standard rate can be exponentially higher in states where marijuana isn’t as common because of restriction laws or lack of a long growing season as is common in the western U.S.

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YS Photography

“I’ll work full time in the summer to get a car, but I just love cash,”

KATO explains as he leans over a corner table in The Hawk, “Growing up you always hear how much money you can make selling weed, but I didn’t know it’d be this easy.” He wears a backwards Patagonia hat and matching hard shell jacket. By simply being within earshot of The Siskiyou reporters, he joined the conversation and agreed to an on-the-spot interview as long his identity was withheld.

KATO is another SOU student who has chosen to sell marijuana  in order to make extra cash. Unlike TRUMP- KATO is a resident in the campus housing and has to adjust his practices accordingly. Due to fear of being caught by Residential Assistants or faculty, he sells most of his weed on pre-order, but also claims to be able to occasionally obtain small amounts of Molly for trusted customers.

While selling broken ounces out of his dorm, KATO agrees that the real money is in shipping weed and is willing to take the risks of delivering to an area with demand. However, his operation is slightly more complicated than handing an acquaintance a Ziploc bag in the living room. In order to obtain a higher payout, a friend back in his home state coordinates when KATO is sending out his shipment. From an “off-campus office” KATO vacuum seals a large bag of Ashland grown marijuana before wrapping it in t-shirts and stamping a fake return address on the package. Once the cannabis arrives, KATO’s friend then sells it at the standard area rate and wires money back to Ashland so they can reinvest.

While TRUMP’s business boasts prices as low as 90$ an ounce, that same weight could fetch as much as 300 in KATO’s home state. The risk however is being “sniffed out” by handlers like UPS or FEDEX who aren’t fond of being unsuspecting drug mules. If a shipper has covered their tracks, having a package intercepted will only result in losing out on their product. Though costly and bad for further connections with a partner in another state, it is better to cut loses than have it traced back. If the shipper has made the mistake of leaving a way to be tracked, either through fingerprints or real mailing address, they could face multiple felonies depending on which state they are shipping to.

According to Campus Public Safety, or  CPS numbers, 2014 was a down year for narcotics citations at SOU. However, from the anecdotal information we obtained, marijuana related offenses appear to be as common and sometimes more common than alcohol related incidents. Neither of these student sellers claim to be concerned about law enforcement or the campus security and with decriminalization in effect, they tell me they feel like its a good way to make extra cash while in school.

“Oregon really doesn’t want to put people in jail right now for weed,” says TRUMP, “and they shouldn’t be… Go after meth labs or crack dealers.”