“Both times, the acid wasn’t real,” she said. “It was just a piece of paper.” As a result, she’s back to an old-school approach. “It costs less if you do it through friends,” she said, “and you’re more likely to get what you wanted.”
Max is an experienced drug user and buyer who believed his instincts would serve him well in any situation that might arise. “I wasn’t concerned about safety,” he said. “The dollar signs told me he sells. I know how this works, so I have some cockiness. Worst case, there’s a gun or a knife and they take everything. I gave a fake address, and so we met on a well-lit street near bars. There were tons of people around; I only carried the cash I needed. There was another dude in the car with him and everyone was on K, including the driver. And I was drunk enough [that] I was just like, ‘Yeah.’”
After hashtags come imagery—most posts selling weed use one of the following: neon fractals and bright color washes; big piles or mason jars of nugs; semi-naked young women hitting massive bongs and dutches. Emojis can be reputable indicators, too—look out for any of the following: 🌲🍁💨👌. For all drugs, 🔥 indicates quality; 🚀 is a claim to potency; and dollar signs indicate the product is for sale.
Whether Tony was legit or playing a character is unclear, but his understanding of the business side of this underground economy is not. Tony, like many others, doesn’t actually sell online: “I post up ads online and sell offline. If I sell online, that’s suicide,” he explains. “Better to have a guy point a gun at you than the DEA have proof.” Offline, a dealer like Tony could get busted for any immediate transaction, but he would only be charged with that one crime; with digital evidence, he could wind up being prosecuted for deals conducted months or even years ago, despite those transactions not having been directly observed.
As a precaution, most dealers only use these platforms for advertising and work out the transaction details via Kik, a chatting app; the main difference is not between the various apps but between the two general styles of dealer found on these apps. There are those like Tony who advertise for face-to-face transactions and others who advertise for online transactions.
The sample and car interaction boded well: “I was groovy after the bump in the car. We chatted briefly; the dealer said I was hot. I bought two bags and they left.” But the ketamine in the bags was not the same as the sample—a classic bait and switch. “A couple nights later I ended up going through pretty much all of what I bought,” Max said. “It wasn’t the same stuff.”
Jessie, the second Whisper dealer I spoke with, claims to have been in the game for a while, and though he was less talkative than Tony, he carefully described how he deals weed and “other things.”
Another buyer I spoke to on the phone, named Max, based in a large Southern city, bought ketamine from someone he encountered on Grindr. As he put it: “I wasn’t on Grindr looking for K—I was on Grindr and found K.”
It costs less if you do it through friends and you’re more likely to get what you wanted.
Thought it was a drought? Social media is creating a new market for users to sell and score weed, ketamine, and everything in between.