Sitting down to listen to some accounts of hustling here at UoA, what we are constantly hearing is that students only started selling drugs out of necessity. It was the ever constant presence of hardship in these students lives that led them to start selling. It was the fear of missing a rent payment; it was the anxiety about not knowing where the next meal was coming from that led students to desperate measures. In a weird turn of events, the real victims are not only those susceptible to addiction, but the dealers who have fallen prey to the expensive city of Auckland. Student dealers are risking their lives, their academic career and their safety to stay afloat. The reality of drug dealers is nothing like the glam of narcos; it’s making a sale and still having to eat at club meetings cause it’s free. It’s watching your mate give their last 50 dollar note so you can use it to go pay power that week. It’s desperateness that’s come from living in the fourth most expensive city in the world.
You’re a full time student and manage a quietly successful side hustle. Can you explain why you picked up this work and how you started it all?
Well I fell into the business pretty naturally. I’ve always had access to my parents personal harvest. That weed was used for medicines and balms and very little of it was actually smoked. I first started selling on my own when I was in highschool; I was selling to my mates. I’m from a very small town you see, so all teens could get up to is binge drink, bum around our village centre and get high. It’s very easy to fall victim to the rampant binge culture in our country and I’ve watched good friends struggle with substance abuse.
When I left for uni, I thought I had left that lifestyle behind but everyone in my hall was asking for hookups. Since I had easy access to weed, I naturally just got into selling at the halls. Just by word of mouth my business was constant and by the end of the year I had lines out of my door.
You say you’ve seen substance abuse first hand. You talk about witnessing its effects but continued to sell drugs anyways. Can you talk us through your thought process when you first started selling?
When I first arrived at uni what surprised me most was how bad my peers wanted to try and explore drugs. People were always looking and if it wasn’t me it would be someone else willing to take advantage of students. The majority of people who bought from me were sheltered middle class students who believed $20 for a gram was reasonable (lmao) and didn’t know the signs of an overdose. Seeing the first hand effects of substance abuse, I took it upon myself to impart some drug safety. I would tell kids to stay hydrated, only do drugs with trusted people and to remember at the end of the day, the drugs will wear out of your system and you WILL be fine.
I didn’t feel guilty about selling the drugs. I only felt bad taking money from equally struggling students.
The life of a drug dealer sounds risky. Surely the rewards make up for all that you’re putting yourself through?
I don’t actually make that much money. I only make enough to pay my bills and treat myself to one on campus lunch. I live in the city and my rent is 250 a week, which Studylink barely covers. So the money I earn from selling goes straight to bills and groceries.
I stopped selling in second year and struggled throughout the whole year. I was the brokest I had ever been. I was looking for jobs but at 18 with no work experience, unless you counted ‘trading merchandise’, I wasn’t getting hired anywhere. I was jobless that whole year and it got to the point where I would come to school to eat at networking events or club meets.
I took up selling again the next year but only out of necessity. I did it to support myself through school. I’m often putting myself on the line by selling to so many people so I’m always on high alert. I don’t know how long I can keep up this hustle but I’m due to finish soon so I can start relaxing.
I applied for my first job at 15. I had no qualifications, no networks and no experience. Suffice to say, I didn’t get the job. Or the next three I applied for, not that it was ever an issue. I only wanted a job to get a savings, I didn’t need it. My parents both had full time jobs and whatever I couldn’t buy for myself, my grandmother would get for me. I didn’t need the money is the thing.
By the time I was 19 a lot had changed. I was still applying for jobs with no quals, no experience, no networks. Instead of my small hometown however, I was living in the bustling city of Auckland. Here is a universal truth about living in Auckland. That shit’s expensive.
In addition to that painful truth, my parents had some midlife crisis that led them to quitting their jobs late 2016, and by December 2017 ,my grandmother had passed away. Study Link was as always a revolving door of on hold, unhelpful phone calls. In short then, I needed the money now. So I turned to selling weed. My class schedule was a mess of 9AM’s and 5PM classes, not many places wanted to hire someone with such a flaky schedule, so if I wanted to dedicate myself to my studies, selling was the easiest, most direct method to earn this money.
It’s kinda fucked up how easy it was to sell weed, if I’m being honest. It’s not like sketchy drug deals in the dead of the night, or in a random park in bulky, figure-hiding clothes. For the most part people would slide into my dms, friends of friends, classmates of this person or that person, someone who heard through the grapevine that I was in. It was Facebook messages and Snapchats of people inviting me to their house, or the hall they stayed in, or the stairs at the cafe next to this building. It was bank transfers with no references and casual walks to the nearest atm. Selling drugs at uni wasn’t hard; stoners know stoners who know partiers who have friends who know you – a whole spider web network of teens who wanted a high.
And honestly, I didn’t mind giving that high.
Even when I worked 20 hour weeks, when I received Studylink and money from selling, I was still just getting by. My savings account was low and untimely health issues didn’t help. If my grades hadn’t dropped to B-Minuses and C-Pluses, I probably would have kept the weed side hustle up, but with my studies being the reason I moved to Auckland, I just decided to take a gap year and work full time. Better to solve my financial issues than to risk lowering my GPA.
I understand that maybe my GPA should have been a lower priority, like maybe the whole selling illegal drugs should have ranked higher on my problems list. And I won’t lie, I still have mixed feelings about selling. I’m not a smoker, mostly because I’ve seen how quickly addiction can be born from people wanting to ‘relax’ and ‘have a good time.’ Ultimately however, I sold drugs to survive. I can pretty it up by talking about how easy it was, about how many genuinely good people you meet, how many strangers become almost-friends.
But Auckland is expensive and I had two options without weed: it was work in the hometown I near hated, or study in a city I couldn’t afford to live in.
The choice was weed or my future. To afford the better life that my degree will supposedly give me, I placed my own personal misgivings about weed to the side. Personally, I don’t believe I was in the wrong to sell weed. Maybe part of me can quietly regret the not so fun times, when I was faced with friends who were dependent on weed, when I had to decide whether or not I should sell to them when I knew the $50 they had was all of their spending money ’til next pay. In the end, I became a product of my environment and when tasked with being able to survive, I found my solution, however morally-grey it was at times. And in saying that, I met a bunch of cool people while selling: people with different degree pathways and in different years that I never would have met otherwise.
Like I said, I was 19 and I needed money; I did what I had to and I don’t particularly regret it.