A million years ago, on Thursday, a text message went out to a close-knit friend group including several watching as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency in New York:
“Guys, I don’t think I have enough drugs to get me through this quarantine… Help!”
The words betrayed a very real anxiety of a lot of New Yorkers, and their dealers.
On Saturday night, that same circle of friends convened at a bar in Williamsburg about 24 hours before Mayor de Blasio announced that the city’s public schools, and restaurants, bars and nightclubs would all be closing. Two friends of the nervous texter gifted that person from their own supplies, and joked about stockpiling weed, pills, and MDMA.
While these users were drinking at one of the many bars and restaurants that disregarded the 50 percent capacity mandate the city had in place until the shutdown of all sit-down establishments took effect Tuesday morning, to customers equally dismissive of the recommendation, still in effect, for people to remain inside unless absolutely necessary, street dealers were conspicuously absent. A bouncer at a popular Manhattan club said “Yeah, the guys sort of hung around for a while, and then went home. I almost feel bad for them.”
But, for dealers who deliver, especially those with an affluent clientele, “business is booming.”
It’s because everyone is home,” said one dealer who caters to “very rich people,” delivering mostly MDMA and Ketamine. Customers continue to invite them in, that dealer said, describing their business as very much business as usual but busier than usual. “Ketamine is the most popular right now by far.”
Another dealer, a 10-year veteran of the city delivery drug trade whose clientele includes some of the people on that text chain, said customers don’t want to see them arrive wearings masks or gloves. Customers don’t want “delivery people wearing anything, because it causes paranoia, that dealer said. “Like, I would be worried if my bartender was masked up.”
The first dealer concurred: “My customers don’t seem concerned. They mostly make jokes and tell me they’re leaving town. The drugs are bagged with gloves of course, but I am not a normal dealer, I’m probably bad for you to interview because I’m not the norm, but no I am not wearing gloves into people's apartments. They don’t care—they’re like laughing."
Both dealers confirmed that people who sell “pills” and various forms of benzodiazepine like Xanax, Ativan, or Klonopin, are making a lot of money. But, “dope and pills are a different game,” says the second dealer, since those clients have a much higher rate of dependency.
But even recreational dealers are stocking up, said the second dealer, who reported that on Sunday customers were doubling and tripling their usual orders for weed as rumors spread about what was to come. By late Sunday night, after the mayor’s literal 11th hour announcement that bars, restaurants and entertainment venues would all be closed, orders poured in.
Whie New Yorkers accustomed to having access to whatever they want whenever they want it are stockpiling toilet paper, that dealer wasn’t worried about running out of marijuana to sell.
“I’m not really worried about the supply, regardless of this current situation; scarcity is always a factor. The average price of a pound of weed this summer was about $300 higher than last summer, and in 2017 it was so cheap that no one was making any money wholesaling.”
That dealer is more skeptical that supply will remain stable for “party drugs” like MDMA, since, “The only decent stuff comes from legit labs in Europe. I’m sure people will keep making weird amphetamine trash in the privacy of their own homes but I’ve always tried to stay out of that world.”
The first dealer, who mostly deals with “party drugs,” says they are “committed to always get everything tested. I always have and I always will, but not everyone does that, like at all.”
That dealer wasn’t concerned after de Blasio’s announcements Sunday about more severe restrictions potentially to come on movement and commerce, saying that they had a “decent savings,” and were more worried about the health of their party drug-using customers, since “these things do a number on the immune system.”
As to the police, the dealer continued, “I can’t imagine the government is going to be especially worried about finding this stuff while the economy/societal structure is so compromised.”
As that shakes out, users still need ways to pass the hours. The longer people are confined, the more comfort many take in their habits. We will have to wait and see what consequences this pandemic has on the rates of addiction in the weeks to come. Twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are scrambling to set up online resources for addicts and many are wondering how to reach out to new people that find themselves alone and descending into substance abuse.
“When you have people at home all day, what else are they going to do?” asked Steve Lynn, a personal trainer and retired nightclub owner and drug trafficker as well as the father of this reporter. He answered his own question:
“One thing is for sure: People are gonna find a way to get high.”