- You’re sick of flipping burgers or spending 9-to-5 working in a tiny cubicle every day?
- You’re ready to do something on your own and make some real money?
- And you’re tired of always have to search for a new dealer – shelling out your hard-earned money – and getting schwag in return?
If that sounds familiar, you’ve probably at least thought about getting into business for yourself, especially if you’re in a state where full legalization isn’t on the horizon.
Selling weed can indeed be quite profitable. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, or a fast trip to bling-town. Like any other legal or illegal business, it’s not a hobby, it’s a business – that is, if you expect to rake in the sweet cash (and even have a little product left over for your personal enjoyment).
Ready to turn those green dreams into reality? If so, do yourself a favor and first check out our ten kush commandments for beginning dealers.
One note before we begin: these commandments are aimed at those who are planning to sell in states where pot is not yet legal. Competing against licensed dispensaries and legal home growers not only changes the game but makes working as a dealer a lot more difficult.
1. Thou Shalt Have Enough Money To Get Started
It’s easy to buy a half-ounce and say “I have three friends who I know will buy an eighth apiece. I can keep an eighth for myself and still make $30-$40. Then I just have to reinvest and find some new buyers, and I’m in business!” In theory, that makes sense (although you could probably find an easier way to make $40).
But what if two of those friends happen to be low on cash when you get your supply? You’re going to have to find other buyers, or you’ll end up sitting on that quarter for a while without collecting your share of the money. And be honest, how long will that quarter really “sit” after you’ve finished the eighth you originally kept for yourself? The bottom line: you need more than just a couple of hundred bucks to get started in this business if you’re really serious about it.
You’re also not going to make a decent profit if you’re paying close-to-retail for your weed and reselling it. As in any business, the way to make money by reselling products is to buy in bulk at lower prices, and that requires a decent bankroll to invest. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck slinging eighths and dime bags – until you decide that you never should have quit that day job after all.
2. Thou Shalt Do Thy Research
Every successful business does market research. Why should your weed business be any different?
You probably know, from a buyer’s standpoint, the market price in your area for a quarter, a half, maybe even an ounce. But what’s the going rate for a pound or more? You’d better find out. And while you’re at it, you’d also better have a good handle on how much competition you’d have, and what they’re charging.
If you want to maximize your profit and can find the right customers, you might be tempted to stock up on the high-quality green. If your experience has been primarily with ditch or brick weed, though, you’d better know the going rates (wholesale and retail) for top-shelf kush before bargaining with a supplier or finding out that you’re selling below the market.
You might possibly be aware that what you’re planning to do could violate a law (or ten). But do you know how big your stash has to be before your problems turn from misdemeanors into felonies? You’d better be aware of the legal ins-and-outs of marijuana laws and regulations in your community and state before you inadvertently dig yourself a hole you can’t get out of.
3. Thou Shalt Have the Right Equipment
Of course, you’re going to need a scale, but your kitchen scale isn’t going to cut it. Do yourself a favor and buy the highest-quality digital scale you can afford, and make sure it reads out in tenths of a gram. Paying for accuracy may not seem like the most important investment you could make when you’re handling your own stuff, but you certainly don’t want to be giving your customers more bud than they’re paying for. And imagine how high your medical bills could run if customers start accusing you of shorting them – and aren’t satisfied with your explanations.
One piece of equipment could be even more important than a scale, however, and that’s a burner phone that you change out regularly. There are two reasons to have a burner.
Some dealers are ready to do business 24/7. But the last thing you probably want is customers who are partying late into the evening (or even worse, those who are desperate for a meet-up) calling your house at all hours of the day and night when you’re relaxing, entertaining or trying to get some sleep. Giving customers your burner number makes nothing but sense.
Even worse than that, however, is the possibility that you end up on law enforcement’s radar. Can you guess what their first move will be? Hint: it has to do with your personal phone. Never do business on your own phone – and the more business you do, the more frequently you should get a new burner phone.
(One other thing while on the subject of protecting yourself – try to memorize phone numbers, dates, names, amounts and prices, and write down as little as possible. If you do have to take business-related notes, shred or burn them as soon as possible.)
4. Thou Shalt Choose the Right Places to Do Business
This one won’t take long to explain. Never have a customer come to your apartment or house. Ever. Before you know it, someone (cops, competitors, robbers) you’re not expecting and don’t want to see will find their way to your house, too. You also don’t want your neighbors to start gossiping and speculating about the strange people who keep showing up on your doorstep, right?
No one likes skulking around parking lots, grubby diners or street corners, but it’s part of the job if you’re selling in small amounts. Just be sure the research you did for commandment #2 included mapping out any “turf” that you might be inadvertently invading while you’re out peddling your weed. A good alternative is to provide delivery service, so you minimize the dangers of street dealing as well as the dangers of being spotted by the cops or reported to them.
5. Thou Shalt Provide Good Customer Service
Assuming you don’t want to be available to your customers 24 hours a day, make sure they know when you will be available – and make sure you are available, with product to sell, when you say you will be. It’s way too easy for them to find another dealer if they decide you’re unreliable.
Weigh, weigh again and weigh a third time; your rep will suffer or disappear if people spread the word that you shorted them. Be fair with your pricing and don’t hit customers with big, last-minute price increases; they’ll feel ripped off. Either let them know in advance that the price had to go up (and explain why), or eat the difference the first time and tell them that the next bag will be more expensive. And never brag about the quality of your product if it’s low-grade weed; let people know exactly what you’re selling. Whether people are buying pot or a Porsche, they’ll always appreciate the feeling that they’re dealing with an honest seller, and that their business is valued.
“The customer is always right” is a great mantra for retail stores and service businesses, but it applies here as well. If a buyer has the potential to be a regular customer (or already is one), go out of your way to make sure he or she is satisfied. That’s how you grow your business: keep customers happy, and there’s a good chance you’ll get lots of referrals from them.
Finally, budget in a few freebies for good customers. The goodwill you can build by throwing in an extra quarter for a great customer is worth much more than you’ll lose on the sale.
6. Thou Shalt Draw a Bright Line Between Customers and Friends
The quickest way to go broke as a dealer is by extending credit. And the people who are most likely to ask you to front them, unfortunately, are friends.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t supply friends; they might be the first customers you have when you’re starting your business. What it means is that the dirtiest word any dealer can hear is “credit.” Even when your friends try to run up a tab be aware that there’s a very good chance that if you agree, you’ end up losing the money, the friends, or both.
7. Thou Shalt Develop a Reliable Customer Base
If you’re only selling to friends (remember commandment #6, if you are) you’ll never be able to expand your business to any major extent. If you’re out cruising colleges (when you’re not a student), mall food courts or parks (good luck with that one!), you’re running a probably-unacceptable level of risk and are unlikely to develop a regular base of customers.
Good places to start building a base are at work (assuming you’re not a cop or DA, of course), at school, or at parties. Needless to say, go slow and be cautious; the time you spend becoming accepted by a group of potential buyers is well worth the investment. If you become trusted and treat your initial customers well, you may be surprised at how quickly your business grows through word of mouth. Just be sure to carefully screen each new customer, to make sure they’re not an informant or the type of person who might become a snitch.
8. Thou Shalt Not Get Too Greedy
You’ve bought and sold an ounce. You’ve bought and sold a pound.
“Hey, this is great! Imagine how much I could make if I invested in 10 (or 20, or 50) pounds!”
Slow your roll. You may not be able to handle a major increase in volume, either in terms of storing and packaging it, or in terms of having enough customers for it. In most cases, doing volume like that requires a network of dealers under you; that’s an entirely different business model that you shouldn’t just jump into without a lot of experience and preparation. It’s also exponentially increasing your level of risk.
Additionally, you may have a hard time finding a supplier willing to sell you 20 or 50 pounds of pot (in any form). They’re running a big risk doing that sort of business with you, and will want to know and trust you completely before they’ll put their own, bigger business on the line to sell you huge quantities of flower.
When you do think you’re ready to upscale, take your time and do it slowly. Expanding too fast can kill any business. In the weed industry, it can destroy your business and put you behind bars.
9. Thou Shalt Maintain Secrecy
When business is booming and you’re making the money you’ve always dreamed of, the temptation to start showing off your new-found bank can be overwhelming. Be careful. Not only do you want to keep the actual fact that you’re a dealer on the down-low, but you also don’t want outsiders suspecting it, either.
Keep all bragging and conspicuous consumption to a small circle of close friends you can absolutely trust. Always remember that you can’t enjoy the gold chains, 100-inch TVs and party lifestyle behind bars.
10. Thou Shalt Retain a Lawyer Sooner Rather Than Later
If the worst ever happens, you’re going to want to have an experienced cannabis lawyer on your side. And the chances of finding one are slim, if you wait until the cops are giving you one phone call during the booking process. Any good pot lawyer wants to know who their client is before getting a phone call from a stranger in the middle of the night. Just think: would Saul Goodman rush to your rescue, if he’d never heard of you before (unless Walt and Jesse vouched for you)?
Do some research around the local weed community as soon as you start bringing in some money, and put the best lawyer you can find on retainer. Then keep his or her phone number handy at all times, and keep some cash on hand so you can pay his often-substantial fees if you need him. Hopefully, you’ll never have to call your lawyer for help, but at the very least, you’ll sleep better at night knowing he’s available.