Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have legislation regarding marijuana legalization in active committee. What may be a boon for increased state tax revenue and for sellers of home gardening supplies, is apparently tipping the scales in the other direction for local independent street dealers, many of whom are feeling the pinch.
“All of our new bankruptcy clients now are walking in off the street, wanting to file,” says Lance Powell, financial advisor and bankruptcy attorney. “When we ask what they did for a living, more and more say ‘I was a dealer’ or ‘I sold weed on the corner.’ It’s crazy. It’s good for my business, but it means it’s bad for somebody else’s,” he added.
“Used to be I could just stick my big toe out the window, and customers came ‘round,” said struggling dealer known locally as ‘Freeman the Treeman.’ Now, I can’t get arrested! It’s a damn shame,” he said.
Local bottle and can collector Lee Fan, known for her shopping carts towering with impossibly balanced plastic bags filled with returnable water bottles, soda and beer cans, is also suffering. “Everybody picks up bottles now, not good for me, not good for my income. Dealers can’t sell street marijuana so much, so now they pick up bottles. Free money. Streets are much cleaner, but now I take a big loss,” she said, guiding her now half-empty carriages in a sad trail down the street.
Effects are also felt below city sidewalks and penetrate far down into local subway systems. Rider Mabel Watson, standing beside her Lower Manhattan Seventh Avenue subway entrance, had this to say: “With all these laws getting more and more relaxed, street people have to change jobs. Me, I got glaucoma in my eye, but now I got a voucher to go to the drugstore to get mine instead of all this street mess.”
“So,” continued Watson, “I see my local man, ‘PuffPuff’ down in the train the other day sellin’ candy like the kids do to raise money. Probably the first real job he ever had, but anyway he comes up to me and says, ‘where you been Mabel?’ and I tell him I don’t need him no more. He gets all in my face, tells me ‘Buy some of my candy then! It’s only a dollar, bitch! I mean, ma’am,’ — like that’s gonna make it all right! I bought 2 peanut M&Ms and some DOTS just to get that fool out my face!”
“It’s incredible how many things are affected,” said Powell, as he processed another bankruptcy claim for a new client, nicknamed Mr. Kush. See that guy leaving right now? He used to own this neighborhood. Cars, fancy clothes, everything. Now he comes in here almost broke. Never thought I’d see the day when all this would change so fast. I’m swamped,” said Powell, eyes bloodshot and glassy. “It’s from all this extra work and no sleep, honest,” he added, as he returned to a growing stack of new claim forms.