H ans* wears expensive clothes, is wiry, muscular, eloquent, his brown hair is neatly coiffed. He so doesn’t fit the stereotype of a stoner. He sits in the park of a major West German city and smokes a joint filled with 100 percent highly potent marijuana. He has to keep lighting it because no additives keep it burning.
Hans is a cannabis wholesaler, he produces and sells high-end marijuana, which has a much higher active ingredient content than the weed offered on the street. Around 100 German criminal law professors have just called for the legalization of cannabis in Germany. Hans’ voice comes from the other end of the discourse. The thirty-something tells how he became a wholesaler, what drove him and how it all began.
Hans’ rise to wholesaler began when he was 14 years old. He was living in a small town in western Germany at the time and, like many other young people, started smoking hashish, resin from female hemp plants pressed into slabs. Already one year later he started to sell himself. "Even then, I was making the equivalent of 150 euros a week, on the side," he says. Then came the opportunity that marked his first step on the road to becoming a wholesaler. "A buddy who had a lot of hashish customers owed someone a large amount of money."The deal: "I took over the debts, but also the clientele." The cash Hans took in, he immediately invested in new drugs. So he doubled his sales regularly, and by the time he was 17, he already had six people selling for him on the street. He bought the hashish in the nearest bigger town.
Hans’ "gangster days"
The next step was to move to that larger city from which he had sourced the hash and continue his business from there. He now switched to dealing in marijuana, which is the dried, resinous flowers of the female hemp plant. This variety of cannabis is more noble, more popular with most stoners. "I sold about five kilos a week."Today, Hans describes this phase as his "gangster time". He obtained the good weed through smuggling routes from a neighboring country. Everything was going fine – until a close business partner got busted by the police. The consequence was a prison sentence of several years. Hans went into hiding.
The police searched for him, asked for him in his old environment. His luck was that he had never given anyone his real name, so the police had only a false name and thus little in hand. Hans moved to a nearby big city. And that already brought a lot, because at that time the police was not yet well networked electronically. "I was a paper index card in a binder," Hans says.
Years in the gray everyday life
He took an office job, dealing the drug had become too delicate for him. The two years in the gray German daily grind, Hans says, were the worst of his life. He felt bored, frustrated, and he didn’t see it any differently with his colleagues. "I became a fucking lemming."He had to shop at discount stores, watching the money. "It had always been important to me that money was not an issue. I wanted to have time to live, think and do hobbies," meaning "celebrate, travel, discover new things". In these two years he was "clean", did not smoke cannabis.
After two years he got back into the business. He was in a new city, had no customers, no contacts at all. But a friend told him about growing marijuana in his own apartment. "I calculated that I could make a standard German monthly salary net profit per square meter of floor space per month."And he could squeeze a few square meters out of his old apartment, Hans thought.
Hans quickly built up new contacts and clientele. He thought he had "found the cash cow". He was greedy at first, working with careless people who got caught. But over time, he professionalized his environment. And his claim became to produce "perfect weed".
"A stimulant like wine"
"I love grass. A stimulant like wine. It’s about much more than just being wide," he says. He compares a "hash bong smoker," that is, someone who pulls cheap hashish through a hookah for maximum effect, to a "liquor alky". But a "high-end weed smoker" is more like a wine connoisseur, he says. "The effect is incidental, but not unimportant," is his grass philosophy.
Today, his customers are adults, not teenagers who damage their brains – it is also too expensive for that, he says, with the price for the end consumer at around 15 euros per gram up to 100 percent higher than that of the entry-level product.
Nothing can go wrong when it comes to growing the stuff. No pests, no mold, all factors such as light, fertilizer and water supply must be under control. It also requires "excellent genetics," meaning high-quality cuttings of the plants. Before harvesting, Hans "flushes out" the fertilizer. This means that the growing medium is fed for some time only water without fertilizer.
Flower of a special plant
Even the drying process must be carefully monitored to ensure no mold and that the full flavor develops. When packing, the structure of the flowers must be preserved – and no fingerprints must be left on the plastic. Hans grows in various properties. Sold then in two quality levels. The first stage is so-called Haze strains, cannabis strains that are supposed to give highs and are said to be less likely to cause depressive moods. The second level is a "high-quality standard grass" with hand-picked flower tubers. "Ultimately, I sell the flower of a special plant," he says. Then he laughs and says: "Actually, I’m a florist."
"The whole business is based on trust," Hans explains. When he gets a new business partner, he first looks to see where he lives, where his parents live, what cars are registered to him and how much they are worth. Deposit for emergencies.
Normally everything would go "nicely. But if not, one has to draw "consequences". "If I’m not quite sure about someone, I make sure I’m 95 percent in the driver’s seat," says Hans, explaining his business philosophy. This then means, for example, that the goods are handed over very late. But in the meantime, he has such a good reputation in the scene that he is only approached by trustworthy traders.
Long-term work without a "gangster lifestyle
And how is it different from the weed that is offered on streets and in parks in every major German city? The "stuff" on the streets is usually of "bad genetics," not "rinsed," poorly harvested and gives a "bad turn," Hans says. A "loveless product". Tetrapak wine, so to speak.
Of course, one is sometimes lucky when buying on the street, especially older African rasta men sometimes have good weed in various quality grades. But the stretching of the drug, on the road gang and gives, is highly dangerous. There have already been deaths from poisoning. "Brix, for example, a synthetic resin in which the flowers are dipped, gives them 20 percent more weight."In addition, there are extenders such as lead, bird sand, glass dust and sugar water. "In the best case, people only use crop residues, i.e. the leaves of the plant," says Hans. With Hans, on the other hand, such harvest residues would be disposed of "invisibly and ecologically".
Hans roughly divides the drug trade in Germany into several groups. First, there are "the southerners, mostly Lebanese or North African". "Often they drive a crass cart, but some of them have bought five of them."The reputation of these traders would often be defined by extreme individual deeds, sometimes brutal feats of smuggling and territorial defense, for example, as Hans also performed in the past. But that has changed. "The gangster lifestyle no longer suits me. This is no way to operate in the long term."
Vietnamese, rocker gangs and cannabis fans
Much of the marijuana on the market is produced by Vietnamese in entire houses in the Czech Republic and in Germany. Large-scale but "extremely ineffective," Hans calls this method of cultivation, saying the result is "crap grass".
Then there are the rocker gangs, who are said to be very structured when it comes to cultivation and sales. "They’re doing ‘cash cropping,’ meaning they’re growing for the highest possible profit," Hans says. Through their international network, they would have access to "good genetics" and the necessary know-how to produce a considerable, "better standard weed". But that is poorly "flushed" and generally produced with "less love," he says. Rockers are also involved in trafficking in cocaine, weapons, people and protection rackets. Particularly dangerous among rockers: they are willing to "go to jail" because it moves them up the hierarchy within the group.
And then there is a group that, according to Hans, covers about ten to 20 percent of the marijuana demand in Germany. "This high-end market is supplied by fans like us." Enthusiastic cannabis farmers with business sense. The high-value end products are something like the champagne among weed varieties, he said. The end customers are often people who don’t really want to have anything to do with conventional dealers, he says. So just also better prices are to be obtained.
Criminal law professors in favor of legalization
Whether Hans wants to stop his lucrative, but also dangerous business at some point? "Yep," he says. Because legalizing cannabis in Germany would be within the realm of possibility. In fact, the Schildower Circle, which is 122 well-known German criminal law professors, has just called for the federal government to legalize cannabis because users are being driven into crime.
Legalization wouldn’t necessarily "fit Hans’ bill" business-wise, but if it did, he’d get into legal cultivation. He is annoyed by the "hysterical" criminalization of cannabis in Germany, although he himself profits from it: his hourly wage, he once calculated, is about ten times as high as what he has to pay his lawyer per hour. But it’s not just about the money for him: "I just enjoy growing."
A look at the USA shows how lucrative the cannabis trade can be. According to one study, the volume of cannabis trafficked in the U.S. exceeds the combined volume of corn and grain there. The USA has invested a trillion dollars in the "War on Drugs" over the last 40 years, to no avail. According to Hans, banning something like this is "moronic". The legalization of cannabis in Colorado and Washington shows that others see it similarly. And the potential dangers of alcohol and tobacco use are much higher, says Hans. In fact, there are about 110.000 tobacco deaths, over 70.000 alcohol deaths. There are different opinions on possible, individual deaths from cannabis. In any case, it would be isolated cases.
More personal responsibility
Hans cites what he considers another positive example: the drug policy in Portugal. The country has decriminalized the use of drugs since 2001. Possession of small amounts there is assessed similarly to parking violations. Crime and consumption-related illnesses have declined, and consumption among young people has even fallen.
In the case of tobacco, Hans says, it has been realized that the only way is education. And here, too, the numbers speak for themselves. That’s right, tobacco consumption has almost halved since 1991. In a liberal society, people should be given personal responsibility, at least for marijuana, Hans says, adding that controlled consumption can be "easily integrated into everyday life for mature citizens."
In the case of Hans himself, this seems to be true. He takes a last drag from his joint and disappears into the city.