VICE’s column asking drug dealers not just what they’re selling, but how they’re doing.
Mandy is a 35-year-old mother and freelance graphic designer from London. When the lockdown was announced in March, her work started drying up and she needed a way to earn money to support herself and her two daughters. She decided to set up a hash and cannabis edibles delivery business: the “National Hashish Service” (NHS).
Hey, you around?
Mandy: Yes, hi.
You’re a graphic designer. How come you started selling cannabis?
In March, when no one knew what lockdown meant, or if the borders would close, I ended up buying some high quality hash in bulk from a friend, using a good chunk of my savings. It was a bit impulsive, but I thought it would be a good investment, especially because I smoke it.
So, you were sitting at home with a huge stash of hash…
Yeah, after I bought it, I found myself smoking a lot more than normal. Like, daily. Wake and bake! Hash cakes at night! I’m a single parent with two girls and I was home-schooling. No way I could do that sober.
When did you start selling it?
I started getting less freelance work. Because I had so much hash, I decided to sell the rest of it on the cheap, rather than making much profit. I could have doubled my money. I jokingly called my little business, the “National Hashish Service”. I was going to design a logo and print it, but I was paranoid it would be traced back to me.
The National Hashish Service?
Yeah. I was on a mission, sending out cannabis to people who needed it over lockdown. I wanted to demonstrate that making money is less important than looking after each other.
I sent out free stuff to people who I knew were struggling during lockdown, or had lost their jobs. I sent free bits to old mates just as a surprise, or to cheer them up. It became a sort of hobby. It was weird, lockdown, right?
Very weird. Did you find selling cannabis through the post easy?
I’ve never bought off the dark web and I didn’t have a clue how to post safely, so I just improvised with masking tape and bits of plastic and old cereal boxes. I was stoned and paranoid and sweating the first time I went to the postbox to drop off the packages.
For the second wave of posting, I got up early, put my Lycra and a bike helmet on, and cycled to secluded postboxes. The city was so dead then. Everything got through OK. I sold half of that batch, and the rest I gave away on the National Hashish Service.
What happened next?
By this time, like a lot of people, my freelance work had almost completely dried up. Mates of mates across the UK told me they’d be happy to buy more. And I needed the money. The money from half of the batch that I’d sold had helped cover the bills and food. So, I spent some of it on buying another batch and charged proper money because I wasn’t earning. I made £2,000.
By the end of May, I still had no regular work. So, I spent the profits on hash again. I wasn’t doing anything but hanging with the kids, watching Netflix, sunbathing and packaging up and posting cannabis.
How did you get into selling edibles?
I knew an edibles maker who mainly makes THC edibles like brownies and sweets. He’s a nice man and he’s got medical clients who depend on him. Rent and bills were piling up after I lost a major client, so I needed the money. I couldn’t get any government help, and I couldn’t face claiming Universal Credit – I was getting paralysed with anxiety.
The edibles maker did me an amazing deal on a bulk load of the edibles, so much so that I was able to keep selling fairly cheap to my customers and still make OK money.
How many customers have you got?
I’ve got about 20 to 30 regular buyers and I’ve about six people I give to for free or cheap because they have no job. My customers are pleased because they smoked every day during lockdown and on furlough and getting it off me was safe and easy.
My buyers spend about £100 each per month on average. So I made about £1,500 a month profit tax-free.
Weren’t you a bit wary you could be caught and punished for dealing?
I was more worried about being evicted. I wasn’t totally new to selling weed, to be honest. I sold a little bit at college, an ounce or two a month, and then again after I graduated to make ends meet. I’ve always traded things, from car boots to antiques and eBaying stuff. I was a bit scared I’d be stopped by the police, but only the first time I did it.
Did it bother you, as a parent, to break the law?
There is nothing wrong with what I do. It’s a safe drug. It’s a public service. Did you drink in lockdown? Did the shop-owner have his morals questioned? Was he questioned “as a parent”?
To be honest, I did worry about the girls if I got caught but I kept it all low-key. My suppliers are calm, family men. Plus, I had no choice. I had to make money. The girls know nothing, I’ll tell them when they’re 21.
Has the graphic design work picked back up now?
Yeah, kind of. It’s still bitty, not like before. Is anyone going back to the office this year? I just can’t see it. I’ll work for anyone but I’ll keep selling edibles. It’s great, social, profitable and positive. Loads of people that use my products tell me they now drink much less booze.
I got a good amount of freelance work in over August, so I’m treating the cannabis selling now as a sideline. The pressure is off. I stayed afloat. Single mums should run this country, not absentee fathers.