Las Vegas was proclaimed to be in a recession yesterday by a prominent local economist. Of course, that is based on models that apply to the mainstream economy. In the spirit of this blog, I’ve decided to do a series to see how the 7 Deadly Sins are doing in recession: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. These principals are from the early days of Christianity and hardly apply to 2008 Vegas. Even in the good economic times Vegas is a lustful and greedy city that encourages gluttony and envy whenever possible. But as in any economy, even for vice, a recession means the cost to sin in Sin City is going up and the number of people who can afford to sin is going down. Or, are there different rules when it comes to vices?
Yesterday I met with a man we’ll call Mr. X. Mr. X. has been selling and growing pot in Vegas for years, through good times and bad. He isn’t what you would call a street dealer. You’ll never see him hawking tiny bags at a resort; in fact, he won’t sell small quantities to anyone. It’s simply too much risk for not enough reward. The smallest amount Mr. X deals in is a quarter pound (4 ounces) of pot. You have to know someone to meet him, and he’s very fussy about his customers, too. He refuses, he says, to sell to dealers or anyone he suspects might break his bags down to ounces and distribute them at an inflated retail price. This dealer is a businessman in every sense of the word.
But Mr. X is known to have some of the best weed in Vegas, and he has no shortage of customers. He takes great pride in his product and the variety of flavors he offers his customers.
Mr. X sets up a bud of “Ak-47” for me to photograph. He suggests putting a quarter down for perspective. After weighing the bud, Mr. X says that this one bud is worth $100. He keeps a close eye on my viewfinder as I shoot the photo, making sure the lens doesn’t deviate to capture any other images in his workspace. He checks the photo when I am done shooting. Mr. X is a tad paranoid.
So, who are these customers who pay thousands to him for his weed? He describes his customers as “doctors, dentists, lawyers, chiropractors, casino executives, a lot of musicians and even a psychiatrist.”
“Why would a psychiatrist want pot?” I ask. “Doesn’t he know what to prescribe himself legally without self-medicating?”
“He knows exactly what medicine he needs. He needs pot.” Mr. X says.
Listening as Mr. X takes a phone call is an exemplar of imprecise and ambiguous language. Here is a short conversation from his end: “Yeah, did the thing happen? Great. And, the other thing? That would be 7. We can meet at the place. No, not the 5, let’s do 7. I am excited about this.”
After getting off the phone he asks me suspiciously, “Which deadly sin is pot?”
“Well, it really isn’t one,” I admit. “But you got to figure that smoking pot is the backbone for a lot of sloth and gluttony. It seemed a good place to start.”
Finally, and reluctantly, Mr. X talks about the state of his business. It turns out that admitting to a recession is not a problem. He is more concerned about people knowing how good things are in his business. “I am nervous telling you this, but business is great. I am thinking of expanding and I raised my prices recently.”
So, why does he think that his business is booming in the midst of a recession?
“For the people who buy from me, pot is cheap. For a few dollars you can take the weight of the world off your shoulders for a few hours. They say that is true about heroin, too, but the downside of heroin is huge. Pot is a perfect stress reliever during hard times.”
And how does Mr. X relax with all the money he earns? “Sports betting, I am hooked. I am totally hooked. You can catch me at Texas Station most days placing bets,” he says. Then he adds, jokingly: “Catch me on a bad day of bets I might even sell a nickel bag.”