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News (Media Awareness Project) - CN BC: Despite Deaths, B.C.'s Ecstasy Business Booming
Title:CN BC: Despite Deaths, B.C.'s Ecstasy Business Booming
Published On:2012-01-23
Source:Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Fetched On:2012-01-24 06:05:06

Street Drug Is 'Cheaper Than Alcohol'

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 thirty somethings 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 downtown Vancouver
meeting clients in his nondescript hatchback. Sam, who agreed to the
interview on the condition Postmedia News uses an alias, said 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 styles 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 buyers.

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."

These recreational users of ecstasy and cocaine "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 Dunbar 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. Sam reassured his client that his $10
MDMA (a high 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 scale."

Sam entered the trade after getting fed up with his postgraduate
dead-end job. He says 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 the social aspects 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 said.

He 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."

The drug has become much more mainstream, Burnaby RCMP Sgt. Scott
Rintoul says. 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 says. "When I say saturated . the drug is
now everywhere - 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 anyone."

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, 'OK, 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 problems.

"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 says. "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."

In recent weeks throughout 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 says. "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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