This is the story of how some random kid managed to become a successful drug dealer in Athens, Ohio.
It begins with one of those defining moments you see in all the kingpin movies - Scarface trying his first bump of cocaine, Henry Hill witnessing the gleaming Cadillacs of the gangsters down at the cabstand, Clemenza handing Michael Corleone a gun. It is this, the initial offering of the forbidden fruit, that kickstarts our story.
The question: "Yo, dude, you wanna do some 'molly' tonight?"
It was the summer going into his freshman year of college at Ohio University. An old hometown friend had asked the question at a party one night, but he wasn't sure. He really didn't even know what the recreational drug molly was at that point in time.
"It seemed way out of my league," he recalls. "So I said no. I told him later, 'Maybe when we get to Athens, I'll try some.'"
And he did. Late one night at college, he remembers, he tapped the crystalline powder - popularly called "molly" but also known as MDMA and related to the rave drug Ecstasy - over an open joint paper, twisted it up into a little pouch, opened his mouth and let the paper-wrapped molly drop down his esophagus - a method of ingestion known as "parachuting."
And the effects were... they were... decent, he says. Some energy. Felt a little bit lightheaded. Hard time getting to sleep that night. OK, for the most part, he recalls.
He tried it again. Again. Again. Seven, eight times. And then: a little bit of enlightenment.
"Someone told me they had snorted it and had an amazing time, so I figured I'd try that out. So I snorted it, and that was a game changer."
How many times did he snort molly that first year of college? He says it's tough to say. Somewhere around 40. Let's be clear: that's 40 different nights. Forty nightlong sessions of heavy molly-snorting, blowing down line after line. Forty rooms filled with gaping jaws and bodies slumped like rag dolls. Forty mornings that arrived too soon, the pale cast of blue light in the window signifying some kind of deeply traumatic error, a missed turn somewhere along the way, the end point of a nightmarish failure, the full extent of its consequences only just now coming to light. Forty times hearing those first sounds of birds chirping at dawn.
In this story, our young Drug Dealer (and we will call him Drug Dealer, because the individuals in this business are so rarely cool with their real names appearing in print) is not yet a drug dealer. And the moment in which he decides to become a drug dealer is not really a moment. It's rather a series of glimpses: a folded stack of cash, a Ziplock bag filled with crystals, a snapping rubber band and a thump at the bottom of a dorm room safe. He saw the opportunity to make some money - some easy money - and so he began to deal, using his friend from back home as a supplier, now slinging relatively small amounts of molly to other kids around campus.
As he recalls it, this is when he finds his groove, hitting his stride as a drug dealer, investing not only his time, but also his passion, in the business. Man, making that cash. It's the American Dream.
"I was doing it. I just started selling it, and then it just became routine. That's how it was."
But the path to that dream usually has some corpses sprawled out along the way, and our story is no different. Drug Dealer's initial supplier, the one who first asked him to try molly, had just gotten kicked out of OU, an incident involving a drunken walk home, a backpack stuffed with two ounces of crystal powder, a run-in with some residence assistants, a broken door, a burglary, a felony charge. Drug Dealer still talks to his old friend, who is back home now, working an honest job and, on the side, selling whatever he can get his hands on: weed, coke, hallucinogens, pills, and that vague substance everyone knows by the name of molly.
The year passed into summer. Drug Dealer went back to his hometown in Northeast Ohio, his first year of college wrapped up, three empty months now wailing to be filled.
He remembers it was July 13, 2013, the day George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder, the day Edward Snowden requested asylum in Russia, and Drug Dealer was on his way to a big party. With him: a bag containing 3.5 grams of molly and a scale. His intentions: sell a lot of molly, snort a lot of molly, drink a lot, maybe get laid. The music was loud. He dropped his bag over the kitchen table. He opened the lid of his scale, pressed the ON button. He slid a credit card into the bag and measured out the crystalline white stuff. Everyone was down.
"This was the stuff that made me grind my teeth and my face twitch like crazy harder than it ever had before," he says. "My jaws were clenching and sh** all night. Oh, dude, there was this really hot girl from my high school, she had some huge (breasts), and she showed me them for a line. So that was pretty cool. People were just falling into the walls, cuz we were literally doing it all night and getting straight wasted."
His friend, the one who had been kicked out of school, showed up at the party twice to deliver more molly. Drug Dealer kept selling. The kids kept buying. It was the market economy of a raging party: demand, demand, demand. In the end, he says, the whole party ingested around 10.5 grams of the drug - or $1,050 worth - and yet the insanity eventually reached its precipice; the morning came and Drug Dealer had to leave for work.
His real job, the job that does not involve measuring out piles of white crystals, was in the kitchen of a country club in his hometown.
"I didn't have a car, so I rode my bike to work that morning," he recalls. "About three or four miles. I was feeling pretty horrible. The sun was rising. I was just like, 'I hope no cars see me.' I don't want to encounter any other humans at this hour. I was crashing on the molly. Dude, have you ever done nose drugs all night? The come-down, man. The darkness. The sound of birds in the morning - dude, it terrifies me now. I hate that feeling. You're like, oh my God, I've wasted a ton of money, I've been awake all night, what am I going to do? My nose is running, everything is going wrong at this hour. The birds sound like demons, man. And it happens every time. There's always this turning point in the night, where at first it's 1 o'clock and you're having a good time, and then you blink, and suddenly it's 6, 7 in the morning, and you don't like yourself. The night is over. You don't like it."
Work passed by like slow drifting exhaust, he remembers. He ate some food - his coworkers in the kitchen, most of them recovering meth addicts, understood the need for nutrition after a long night of dehydrated drug use. They did not mind that he was coming into work a shell of a person. They were cool dudes, all straight-edge now, all matured, but they had had their phase once, they had experienced those late-night murmurs, but that was a long time ago.
Drug Dealer goes four days without sleep. On the second night, there is another party. His friend from back home, who had supplied him with molly on the previous night, shows up again.
"He brought me seven more grams on the second night. He came in, he had his ounces in bags, and he was just dishing out free lines to whoever. And he was selling a lot, too. We were all trying to get him to do some with us, like cutting some out from what we had bought and giving it to him to snort. I saw him do one line. Everyone was doing line after line, and he did one small line. That was key. Remember that."
Then, morning. The sunrise. The long bike ride to work. The terrifying chirping bids on the telephone lines, their bodies dotting the milky sky like demonic ink blots. Then a long day of empty thoughts and teeth grinding.
By the third day of no-sleep, he was beginning to feel shaken. This was getting excessive. And yet here he was again, blowing down lines in his friend's basement until 6 a.m.
And that's pretty much it. He goes through the next day, and that night his body, empty from lack of food, weak from abuse, shivers in bed, and still he cannot sleep.
"I was worried that if I did it again, I'd lose my mind. Or I'd do something seriously detrimental. I think I was grinding my teeth for five days after I stopped doing it."
A few days later he heard a story about some local kid ending up in the hospital after a night of snorting molly. Drug Dealer had been selling molly on the same night - it was the second night of his bender - but he had not sold to this kid. This kid had been at another party, somewhere else in town. But it was the same molly. His friend, the supplier, had apparently made a few more stops that night, one of which had ended with this kid snorting a few lines and becoming so dehydrated that he passed out, began seizing and woke up in the hospital with tubes running down his throat.
"Remember: my friend, the guy who sold it to me, he only did one small line. Because he knew. And when the kid in the hospital got drug tested, when the doctors found out what he had been on, it came back as zero percent molly, 100 percent bath salts. So we had been doing bath salts. For three days straight."
It wasn't his fault, he insists. Who could say it was? He had been snorting just as much, if not more, than everyone he had sold to. They were pissed at his friend, the one who had, in their mind, knowingly supplied them with bath salts pretending to be molly. But Drug Dealer was innocent of any wrongdoing. He had been tricked just like everyone else. Man, he was a victim, too.
And yet this situation repeats itself again and again leading up to the beginning of the new school year. Drug Dealer is supplied with a few ounces of molly to sell, and the supplier is adamant: it's molly, it's molly, it's molly. And then, later, he is told that it wasn't molly. It was something else, the supplier says. Pretty much the same thing, though. So don't worry about it, dude. It's chill.
"And I just... I really didn't like that. I don't know. Dude, sometimes, I just really don't know what I'm doing."
Go through the same situation again and again, and you begin to draw some conclusions. You begin to form your own generalizations. Drug Dealer's are thus:
"The molly that you buy now is all bath salts, or some other kind of knock-off. I'm telling you right now, I know the levels of the game, I know all aspects of this, and I'm telling you there is no real molly in Athens. None. None at all. There is no molly here."
This understanding was not so much a sudden epiphany, but more a slow realization that these instances - which had, at first, seemed to be outliers, exceptions to the rule - were actually the standard operating procedure. Say something is molly and watch it sell like crazy. Watch the people come back for more. Watch them blow it down or dab it on their tongues without hesitation. So why rock the boat?
"Pretty much every dealer knows it's sh**, and they don't care," Drug Dealer says. "They sell it anyway. And people buy it. It's that whole molly culture. You know: all those T-shirts that say 'Got Molly?' and Miley Cyrus singing about molly, and all the kids wanting to try molly cuz it's the cool thing to do. And back in the day, people would do molly for an event. A rave or something. But in all honesty, most people nowadays will do molly and just go to the bars. They're going in there to get a drink and sit down and talk to people, and yet they gotta be rolling for it. I wish raves or special events were the extent of it, but that's just not the case."
THE FULL EXTENT OF THE PROBLEM is difficult to determine. A 2013 survey conducted by Ohio University regarding the use of alcohol and other drugs found that 4 percent of undergraduates at the university admitted to having used molly (or what they thought was molly) in the past 30 days. Now the following, of course, is purely speculative, but if it's indeed the case that at least a relatively significant amount of the molly being sold in Athens is not actually molly, or more precisely MDMA, then it's probably not too much a stretch to say that a good number of students are wandering around Court Street at night high on bath salts - that drug that has so frequently aired on news broadcasts as the cause of cannibalism or insane rages against law enforcements officers.
"And most people are realizing now that it's not real molly," Drug Dealer says. "I really hope they end up realizing that it's all sh**, all these nose drugs. I hope that they just stop buying it. Because there are always just gonna be people, like the higher-up cooks and distributors, who are always going to be looking for shortcuts to save money and make more money, and they're always just going to be doing cheats and hacks like that, stuff they shouldn't be doing, and it's gonna f*** a lot of people up, like way more than they might anticipate or realize. But they're high up on the food chain, dealer to dealer to dealer, so they're never gonna get popped, you know?"
And there will always be dealers willing to move the product, willing to make some money off what is, really, a total scam - a pretty dangerous one, to be clear - and Drug Dealer is no different. He hasn't stopped selling fake molly. In fact, he's moving up in the game...
(The second part of this story will appear in the next edition of Athens NEWS. It will include interviews with law enforcement and other sources with insight into the molly - both fake and real - phenomenon.)