Technology is changing the way students get their drugs
College students no longer have to drive to a stranger’s house or meet in a dark alley to buy their weed, cocaine, molly and bars. Apps, social media and the dark web are making it faster, less traceable and easier for students to obtain drugs. So easy, in fact, that ordering street and prescription drugs is now as easy as ordering takeout.
Businesses such as Weedmaps use technology to offer delivery systems for drugs, making it easier and cheaper for consumers and more profitable for suppliers.
“You don’t have to anxiously wait for a response from a stranger you’re asking to sell to you or go meet them in a sketchy parking lot,” said junior communications major M.L. “You don’t even have to leave your house.”
Like Yelp but for marijuana purposes, Weedmaps was originally designed in 2008 to provide users with information and reviews on nearby dispensaries. After cannabis was legalized in 2018, the app began offering weed delivery options in California, as well as other states that allowed recreational use. Weedmaps provides connections to delivery services like Kushagram, OG Expressnand Quality Providers. Users can factor in everything from price, quantity and quality without leaving the couch. After a few clicks on the app, pot is delivered to the buyer’s door within an hour.
M.L. uses Weedmaps to find delivery services because he doesn’t have a fake ID, a car, or a friend who sells. He bought a medical marijuana card online for $100, claiming he had insomnia, so he could access weed without the hassle of finding and buying from a dealer.
L.S., a junior business major who has illegally sold marijuana and cocaine since high school, is now a delivery driver for a company featured Weedmaps. This gig is less risky, he said, because it’s entirely legal.
“It’s fast, easy money,” L.S. said. “It helps me grow my personal business also and I make a lot of connections.”
A good portion of the clients on L.S.’s Orange delivery route are Chapman students. He believes he delivers to at least seven students a week, but concedes there could be more as he doesn’t ask his customers about their personal lives.
L.S. keeps his personal marijuana business growing by posting deals on Snapchat, reaching most of his clients through Snapchat and Instagram. He buys his products in bulk at local dispensaries to get deals, then sells in small quantities for more money to make a profit.
While Weedmaps is legal, his side business isn’t. He doesn’t fear the risk of getting caught, however, because he is careful about the way he sells and doesn’t think selling marijuana should be considered a crime now that it’s legal.
People arrested for dealing are typically selling harder drugs than weed says Roger Loftis, an Orange police officer who has been with the department for more than 20 years.
“We’re more concerned about the distribution of hard drugs like cocaine, meth and heroin,” Loftis said. “We’re not too worried about teenagers in possession of a small amount of weed.
There are typically one or two drug-related arrests every year at Chapman, according to Jerry Price, Dean of Students. Although the campus police can’t pinpoint the exact number of students who are selling drugs, the number of people who have been caught hasn’t seen a drastic increase or decrease since the legalization of weed, according to the 2018 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report put out by Public Safety.
To reduce their risk of legal trouble, many students use social media to find dealers and connect with them more quickly. Students use apps that weren’t created for the purpose of delivering drugs, such as Uber, Snapchat and Instagram, to coordinate drug deals undetected.
S.W., an undeclared sophomore, uses Snapchat to correspond with her dealers for cocaine, acid and shrooms. She prefers it over texting or calling because she believes Snapchat is less risky.
“You get drugs faster and it’s harder for dealers to blow you off because you can see when they open your message,” she said. “It’s also safer since the messages disappear right away, although somewhere it’s probably still accessible, but it makes me feel safer.”
Some students use apps like Venmo and PayPal to transfer money claiming the payment is for an alternate purpose to disguise their drug deals. Others, like L.S., still prefer cash so transactions do not show up in their bank accounts.
While apps are creating more opportunities for consumers and dealers, they carry their own risks as well. There’s a greater chance of getting ripped off with approaches that tend to come with anonymity.
“They’re not really a person, just a number or a username in your phone you contact to get what you want,” S.W. said.
With everyday apps being used for drug deals, there are implications even for people who aren’t involved with drugs.
Lara Amhal, a junior business administration major, ordered an Uber back to the dorms after a party one night. Partway into the ride, her driver asked if he could end the trip six minutes to make a pitstop. She refused, already feeling uneasy after he referenced having a “little steel friend” with him. The driver pulled into a gas station lot anyway, yanked a rolled-up red bandana out from under his seat, got out of the car and handed it off to man behind the tinted window of a black SUV. Then he got back in the car, acted like nothing just happened and continued with the Uber trip.
“There’s always a risk connecting with strangers through apps, no matter what the circumstances are,” Amhal said.
Amhal believes he was using Uber as a delivery system for drugs. Uber did not respond to a written request for comment.
Some students looking for harder drugs are taking ultimate measures to avoid any risks, so they turn to the dark web. The dark web contains a pharmacopoeia of drugs sold by dealers who have user reviews and remain anonymous through special browsers like Tor that have virtually untraceable IP addresses.
Mark, a senior whose name has been changed, uses his skills in the digital world to access cocaine, ecstasy and painkillers through an untraceable browser.
“It’s honestly really easy,” he said. “It’s like ordering something off of Amazon.”
He uses cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin so transactions can’t be followed back to the buyer, making purchasers and distributors unidentifiable. The markets are laid out like any other online shopping format: each product is listed with reviews, prices and photos so consumers know exactly what they’re getting.
There are a lot of benefits of buying off the dark web, according to Mark: products are better quality, selection is wider, quality is better, prices are lower, access is immediate and there is little risk of being caught.
“It’s cheaper and the connections are more reliable than street plugs because they have reviews,” he said.
There are fewer threats to physical and personal safety, less chance of exposure and apprehension by law enforcement, and greater quality control buying drugs on the dark web, according to the 2015 Global Drug Survey. However, they said there was also a greater chance of being scammed by unknown dealers. Nor does the risk of discovery disappear. Product shipped internationally may be intercepted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection if uncovered.
Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Rahul Gupta spoke at Chapman Oct. 17 about the dangers of the dark web. He brought a guest speaker, “Johnny,” who was caught buying large quantities of molly on the dark web and selling them. He lost over $12,000 getting scammed on the dark web and was eventually tracked down by law enforcement.
“Even though Johnny wasn’t on the street corner, we still found him, we still arrested him, we still convicted him,” Gupta said.
Incorporating new technology helps traders stay competitive, and the drug market is no exception, says Louise Shelley in her book “Dark Commerce: How a New Illicit Economy Is Threatening Our Future.” Shelley argues that as individuals become increasingly connected, societies, as a result, will become more vulnerable to illicit trade and the criminal activity that comes with that will have a major impact on global economic competition.