For Sally Davidson, the decision to sell weed boiled down to a simple question: How far was she willing to go to keep her other, legitimate business open?
Davidson had for years poured boundless creativity and long hours into her small, intown operation (sorry, we've got to keep it vague, just as we've changed the names of the subjects of this story) and out of which she pulled barely enough money to make the rent. She either would have to shutter her business or work two gigs.
Had she opted for a more traditional second job, like waiting tables, she felt she'd have little energy left to devote to the venture she loved. And really, what would be the point of running herself so into the ground that she'd have no choice but to do a half-ass job at the business she was trying to save? That was almost as bad as giving up entirely.
Of course, there was another option.
Davidson, whose delicate features and heart-shaped face suggest a certain sweetness, happened to be a longtime pot smoker. She also knew a dealer who, with some prodding, was willing to show her the ropes.
"I figured that this was the one thing I could do that doesn't take a ton of time and can still make money," she says. "It's kind of like working at a strip club, but without the ankle pain."
It turned out that her dealer friend had too many customers and was already thinking about downsizing. So he was happy to pass some of his client base along to her. She found that when it came to peddling weed, she was a natural – and that there are some things about being a woman that actually make you a better pot dealer.
"I milk the fact that I look so innocent," she says. "I'm a young Caucasian woman with a respectable job. I drive a white-girl car. And I use that to my advantage."
For example, Davidson recalls how she was leaving the house the other day only to find several police cars parked outside. "The cops were like, 'Don't worry, everything's OK, ma'am.' If they knew what I had in my house!"
But it's not just about appearances. There are other perks to being a woman in the pot biz. As some of Davidson's clients pointed out, her pitch was notably more polished than her predecessor's. "I often sell a customer on product that's locally grown and organic," she says. "Once, when I did that, the guy looked at me and said, 'God, it's weird buying pot from a woman.'"
Though she'd been buying weed for personal use for more than a decade, Davidson had only bought from men – a situation that could be alternately intimidating and aggravating. As a result, Davidson started paying attention to the little niceties that elude some guys, such as returning phone calls and showing up on time. She says that, as with any business – including the one she legitimately runs – "good customer service and good product are crucial."
Although she's now retired from dealing pot, Kate Simmons agrees that women are often more detail-oriented than their male counterparts, and that the many female pot dealers she knew took a deeper, more philosophical approach to the trade.
"I was very lucky to have elders – people who were [pot] professionals for many years – show me the way when I was young," she says. "That left a huge impression on me. Most of the women I knew in the business were in it for the same reason I was: They saw the common good."
When she was still in her 20s, Simmons progressed to selling strictly high-grade weed – and as much as several pounds at a time – to a small and respectable client base.
Many of her customers were people with ailments or professional jobs. The former viewed marijuana as a welcome alternative to side effects that accompany traditional painkillers, while the latter considered weed an effective way to deal with stress. To many white-collar pot smokers, a few tokes seemed to take a lesser toll – and result in a far more manageable hangover – than knocking back a few scotches on the rocks.
Fortunately for Simmons and Davidson, the professional crowd is drawn to a woman dealer. "Doctors, for instance, have to be careful with who they trust," Simmons says. "They were very comfortable with me."
The trust went both ways. Both Davidson and Simmons point out how unnerving it is to know that, should a customer get arrested, he'd be pressured to give up his dealer. It's therefore safer to serve customers who are more careful – and have more to lose – than the stereotypical pothead.
Simmons says there was another bonus to dealing with doctors. Sometimes, they'd buy in bulk and pass the weed along to patients with eating disorders, cancer or AIDS (marijuana helps with pain relief and lack of appetite). Those patients would likely be too skeptical – or too sick – to seek out a dealer themselves. "Some of the doctors would make pot brownies for their patients," Simmons said. "I showed them the recipe."
Though dealing pot was always more about the politics for Simmons, she admits the money was good. In fact, there came a time when she says she had more cash than she knew what to do with – partly because she lived such a low-key, flash-free life. She doesn't even drink.
The problem was, Simmons got to the point where she was afraid to deposit her earnings in the bank, out of concern that she might come under investigation for handling suspiciously large sums of cash. Then she started "hearing my name around town, associated with dealing." That's when she started phasing it out of her life.
It wasn't as hard as one might think. Throughout her pot-dealing career, Simmons worked a regular job. She continues to do so.
"I have several friends [who used to deal weed] who have kids and family [and] are retired as well," Simmons says. "We're at a different age, where we have people in our lives who we can't jeopardize. And it's not worth it here in Georgia, the way your freedom can be taken away."
Davidson, on the other hand, currently relies on dealing pot to pay the bills, and she's earning a more modest haul than Simmons did at her height. "Business is slow-growing," she says. "For safety reasons, it's worth taking my time."
But make no mistake; Davidson is intending to expand. In fact, she says she's more driven than most to succeed in the pot business.
"That has to do in part with being a woman in this society," Davidson says. "We make, what, 76 cents to the man's dollar? I'm hungry, and that influences me to hustle a little harder."
In the meantime, she's cutting expenses and growing her customer base wherever she can. Just the other day, she decided to cancel her cable, because she's not a big TV watcher and could use the extra cash. When the cable guy came out, however, he hinted he might be willing to leave her cable on if she were to offer him a little something in return.
She paused, then whispered: "Do you smoke weed?"
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