What It's Like to Spend a Day Delivering Marijuana by Bicycle in New York City
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Two drug dealers are sitting in my living room, drinking a pot of French-pressed coffee I brewed for our interview. With long hair, beards and matching black nail polish, the two could almost be members of a grunge band, except they’re exceedingly well-mannered.
“Even though what we do is illegal, we’re both morally sound people,” Abe says, rearranging his position on my grandmother’s old couch. “We try to do right by people. That’s what I always tell my mom, anyway.”
Abe, who’s in his early 30s, is from an Austin, Texas, military family. His dad, a doctor who served in Vietnam, died a few years ago when a small plane he built crashed into a mountain in New Mexico. Like his father, Abe is a risk taker. He was working on Wall Street before he started an illegal marijuana delivery company with his best friend, Brian, who is sitting cross-legged next to Abe in a pair of beat-up khakis and a dark blue Red Sox winter jersey.
The pair tell me their company, Secret Fleet, hasn’t even been around for a year, but their clientele is growing larger every week. In fact, on a recent night, their couriers made a record 55 deliveries.
Yet there are complications that come with running a black-market business like theirs.
“I tell my family I’m just a regular bike courier trying to make it as an actor,” says Brian, a soft-spoken amateur actor and former pharmaceutical researcher, who’s also from Austin and also in his early 30s. “I don’t like having to hide what I do. But my family is made up of very traditional, conservative people. And I don’t know how they’d react to it.”
Abe’s mom knows exactly what he does. “She worries that I’m breaking the law,” he says, but she supports him nonetheless.
This is why Abe and Brian are letting me write about their business: They want to start removing the negative stigma that surrounds marijuana. To that end, they’ve agreed to let me follow Mason, one of their 12 couriers, for a full day on the job. (The names of the company and those interviewed for this story have been changed to protect their identities.)
It’s a cold, sunny afternoon when Mason arrives at my apartment. At just past 1 p.m., his 10-hour shift has only just begun.
The 36-year-old Texan seems a little nervous to be talking to a reporter. I can’t blame him. I bring him a glass of water and give him a once-over: He’s wearing a windbreaker, slightly frayed blue jeans, wool socks and hiking shoes. His blue eyes, tawny hair and scruffy beard make him look a little like an out-of-work Land’s End model.
While we wait for calls to come in, I ask Mason about himself. His past is varied. Originally from northern Texas, Mason tells me he spent the past decade living in different cities across the country. He started out in Santa Fe, N.M., where he earned a master’s in liberal arts. He then moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a photographer’s assistant, and then Austin, where he had an office job in an organic furniture store.
With just a touch of a Southern accent, Mason tells me he gave away most of his possessions and moved to Brooklyn last year after a painful divorce.
“I never would have moved to Austin if it wasn’t for my wife,” he explains. “Everything in New York is the best -- the people, the food, everything. It’s the cream of the crop.”