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News (Media Awareness Project) - CN BC: Partiers Dancing With Death
Title:CN BC: Partiers Dancing With Death
Published On:2012-01-21
Source:Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Fetched On:2012-01-23 06:03:32

Sam's workday usually starts late in the afternoon as Vancouver's
aggressive partiers begin looking for a way to chemically enhance
their fun. Most nights of the week, a host of twenty-and
thirtysomethings call Sam's work phone throughout the evening and into
the early morning looking for ecstasy and cocaine. Despite recent
headlines about the deadly PMMA-laced ecstasy pills, Sam's phone still
rings with clients searching for a good time.

The charismatic 30-year-old drives in and around down-town Vancouver
meeting clients in his nondescript hatch-back. Sam, who agreed to the
interview on the condition The Sun use an alias, says his customers
include kindergarten teachers, financial advisers and even doctors.

In his designer scarf and coat, Sam more closely resembles his
customers than the stereotypical Lower Mainland drug dealer tattooed
and clad in sparkly Affliction or TapouT T-shirts.

The University of British Columbia graduate fashions himself as an
independent businessman, carefully growing a base of patrons. He began
with a circle of close friends and grew his roster of clients through
word of mouth to about 150. Some are loyal weekly callers, others
occasional purchasers who contact him every few months. Almost every
week he puts a new customer into his work phone, a cheap cell with a
number separate from his personal smartphone.

"Honestly, they're like me - they're partiers," Sam says of his
clientele. "I wouldn't say I have anyone who's an addict."

Recreational users of ecstasy and cocaine, "these are people with
functioning lives," he says. On a Friday night, his first customer is
waiting around 6 p.m. outside his workplace - a financial institution
on Dun-bar Street. After jumping into the back seat, the first thing
the clean-cut guy in his early 30s says to Sam is, "What's with all
the deaths, dude?" Since last August, five British Columbians - three
men and two women ranging in age from 14 to 37 - have died from
ecstasy laced with PMMA, the same lethal chemical linked to a spate of
recent deaths in the Calgary area. This year and last, there have been
a total of 18 ecstasy-related deaths in B.C.

Lucrative car ride

Sam reassures his client that his $10 MDMA (a higher grade of ecstasy)
capsules are safe and the overdoses that have shaken the Lower
Mainland and Calgary are most likely from cheaper pressed pills. Sam
agrees to drive his client to Joey restaurant on West Broadway as they
chat about his plans for an upcoming concert. He pulls five MDMA pills
from a hollowed-out Axe deodorant spray can and hands them to the man
along with a baggie containing half a gram of coke in exchange for
$90. Sam says he made $60 from that 10-minute car ride.

"My cost is higher than others because I don't have economies of

Sam entered the trade after getting fed up with his post-graduate
dead-end job. He hopes to retire in five years with a million dollars
in drug money. He says he made a $9,000 profit last December - $1,800
on New Year's Eve alone - and though his business isn't as mature as
he would like, he averages over $4,000 a month.

He says he loves the lack of pressure and social aspect of his new
career, but hates lying to friends and family and the prospect of
going to jail.

Sam says he buys up to four ounces of MDMA every two weeks and caps
them himself using a machine that does a hundred at a time. His
supplier, a drug dealer friend who first took Sam under his wing a
year and a half ago, bought two kilograms of the drug last June. That
stock is almost gone and they are now looking for another reliable
batch, Sam says.

He doesn't cut his MDMA pills with anything, but admits he doesn't
know what has been put into the powder by the time it gets to him.
"I've tried a fair bunch and honestly I don't know, which is actually
pretty indicative of probably a lot of guys out there."

He says he takes care to sample any new product himself and says his
customers don't have to worry about overdosing on a "bad batch."

"I think people are pretty aware of it," Sam says. "Me personally, it
doesn't worry me because I know my stuff's okay."

Most of his clients tell him they only take one or two pills a night.
"I can honestly say I don't feel like I'm hurting people ... I'm sure
people would disagree."

When a twentysomething hipster jumps into Sam's car near 22nd Avenue
and Nanaimo Street to pick up half a gram of coke, she attests to the
strength of his MDMA.

"On New Year's [Eve] I puked for like an hour," she says. "It's so
good, I wonder if I should just start taking half [a capsule]."

Sam cautions her to drink water next time until the nausea stops. "I
was fine after-wards," she says, handing Sam money and opting for coke
this time.

Looking for a rush

Today's ecstasy users are young professionals and college students who
use the drug socially at house parties, clubs and concerts to get a
burst of energy and a rush of euphoria. They see the colourful ecstasy
pills imprinted with cartoon characters and cute logos, or sold in
innocuous-looking capsules, as much different from a bag of crack
cocaine or heroin - the dangers of which are widely recognized by

As someone who was once familiar with ecstasy, Amelia Collins, 22,
fondly recalls her wild year when she took it once or twice a week
with a close group of friends as a 17-year-old in Duncan.

The Langara College business student says the drug would amplify the
group's experiences when taking long walks together or dancing at
raves. She said her group knew the different ecstasy dealers and there
was a great sense of com-munity among the ravers.

"I've seen bad trips and what-not, but . I never knew any-one that
went to the hospital," Collins said. "We got to know the types of E we
were get-ting because you'd know the colours."

She said certain pills would have more speed and give a more intense
energetic high, while others would bring a mellower body high.

"Everyone would have their own preference."

After a while she gave up the drug when she realized she couldn't stay
out dancing till 6 a.m. regularly. Kids these days seem to take any
pill put in front of them, she says.

"I think it's unfortunate. I know there's just so many kids, they hear
about it, they think they should be doing it, but they don't know
anything about the drugs," Collins says. "It's literally just about
getting high now.

"Half the time they don't know what it is, it's just an available

The drug has become much more mainstream, says Burnaby RCMP Sgt. Scott
Rintoul. A synthetic drugs expert, Rintoul has talked to over a
thousand ecstasy-using British Columbians and conducted a 10-year
study on the drug, which he began in 1998.

By age 18, around 15 per cent of B.C.'s students have tried ecstasy,
according to a 2008 report by the University of Victoria's Centre for
Addictions Research of B.C. and the McCreary Centre, a non-profit
research agency dedicated to youth health.

"I would say the market in B.C. is saturated with ecstasy and other
similar-type drugs," Rintoul said. "When I say saturated ... the drug
is now every-where - it's a very cheap and affordable drug.

"Cheaper than alcohol. Depending on who you're buying from, you're
going to pay between $3 and $10 per capsule - it's available to

Sam says he doesn't sell to anyone under 20. In his own mind, he
differentiates the party drugs like cocaine and ecstasy that he sells,
from more denigrated street drugs like heroin and crystal meth.

"To be honest I don't know anything about heroin, meth, oxy that kind
of stuff," Sam says. "When you watch Intervention, when you see those
people, how could you be the person giving them that?"

Sam says he would absolutely stop dealing to someone who told him they
had an addiction. "No one's ever actually been like, 'Okay, stop
answering my calls,' " Sam says.

However, Rintoul says Sam is kidding himself if he thinks cocaine is
not addictive. And even those who take ecstasy will end up having big

"Some of the inherent risks are not only the use of the drug itself,
but what indirect behaviour do we see from people who use ecstasy?"
Rintoul said. "Why is it called the love drug? Is it like Viagra or
Cialis? Absolutely not.

"Because of its unique effects, people open up. Their mood changes and
they just feel so good about themselves, so good about the environment
they're in, that they become risk-takers."

One tablet can kill

In recent weeks through-out the Lower Mainland the drug has, on
several occasions, claimed one victim among a group of friends all
taking the drug.

Each person reacts differently to the drug and the different chemicals
it is cut with Rintoul says. "When we see cases of victims who consume
the drug with friends, [we think] that person must have had a bad
batch," Rintoul said. "The experts are saying there is no good batch.

"A single tablet has been responsible for death before and a single
tablet will be responsible for death in the future."
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