Exchanges From the Curb: Growing and Cheating

By Jamie Snoll on at

Ambition is a cruel mistress, and I have long since learned my lesson that if things are going well, leave them alone; be happy with your current “lot” in life and try not to disturb the status quo, as for every easy week, month or year of your life, there are several that are a struggle. Secondly, I have learnt to stick at what you are good at.

Our usual Friday columnist, Matt Delito, is on holiday this week. Check back on the 28th for his next column, or read this tale from his criminal foe, Jamie Snoll.

My life was good; it was summer time and products was readily available, I was making decent money and had very little worries; any women-related problems I had recently had passed by, and I was back to tapping up a couple of the less attractive but very willing girls from the local estate. I had been given a new place to live by the council and this was in a nice area, with less going on in the streets of an evening. I thought that it was an ideal location as I could get away from the “estate politics” but I was still close enough for my clients to pop over when needed. Access to the new place was private and everyone seemed to keep themselves to themselves; a real change of pace from what I was used to at the time.

I had also started to work a bit, cash in hand construction work; I was basically a grunt but as I had dealt to the boss for years I had a sweet ride, he would pick me up in the morning and drop me off at home. I was always home by 4pm to catch the usual customers picking up their weekly stash.

The extra cash had allowed me to purchase a car, and I was legally driving again which was a nice feeling; I had not gone for the most low-key of cars, I was young and stupid so I drove a Renault 5 turbo, the car I had wanted for years. In all honesty I drove like a “Berkshire hunt” the majority of the time; I could not get in the damn car without revving the bollocks out of the engine and would pull away as if I was in a '70s cop show. I had no business in a car that powerful, and most of the journeys were white knuckle rides for my passengers.

Even after the purchase of the car, new clothes and trainers I still had money left over. It was burning a hole in my pocket, so I decided rather than just blowing the lot in the boozer and on controlled substances to be taken in the local boozer, I would invest the money. I spoke to Chaz; he knew a lot of people and seemed to be liked in every single pub I went to, and he had a friend who had a friend who was selling a hydroponics system and had the majority of the gear I would need; the rest although not as readily available as today, was fairly easy to get my hands on.

Hydroponics is a completely legal thing; it is simply growing plants in water rather than soil, and it speeds up the process slightly as you can monitor the nutrients in the system, making it easier to harvest the crops and resulting in a better plant-to-product ratio when you use this system.

Now, Giz UK Editoress Kat has asked me not to make this a guide to growing your own, and to be honest if everyone starts doing that I will be putting a lot of good drug dealers out of business, so I have decided to share the worries and concerns that were on my mind when undertaking this particular project.

Location – you need to have a large enough space to build the set-up you want; I always prefer using a tent-style set-up within a room. It reduces a lot of the complications and can help keep smalls in.

Access – I did not want to live where I was growing, obviously this is illegal so being away from the place as much as possible always seemed like the right thing to do. So you need a place where you can come and go without looking overly suspicious.

Electricity – You are going to need a constant supply of power for both the hydroponics and lighting/heating in the tent.

Irrigation -- This has to be done extremely well, you do not want puddles of water or dripping on to the electricity supply; also by managing the water and nutrient supply you can keep down some of the fumes given off.

Heat – this has to be accurate and exact, I know one plumb who constantly wanted to show off his upcoming crop and by opening his smallish tent over and over he destroyed the majority of his product.

Light/dark – this has to be accurate, giving the plants exactly the right amount of light and dark to replicate their natural growing conditions.

Neighbours/Smell – Make sure you don’t stink out the whole street or block of flats. Here are a number of suggestions: a bowl of vinegar in the room; burning candles; a plug-in air freshener in the hall way. Lets' be honest, though: it is going to smell, so a well-ventilated room and trying to contain the smell has always seemed like the best approach to me.

Police – do not cover the windows; this is just a give-away that something naughty is going on inside the room, flat or house. Obviously the police were always a big concern but all of the stories I ever heard about checking electricity bills, using a heat sensitive camera on a helicopter or police dogs searching the flats never happened...well, I never saw it happen, anyway. The most common way people got caught was either by talking too much, with too many people finding out, or by pure and simple stupidity and/or arrogance.

Black Flies – bastard little things that eat your crop; the purchase and use of Spider Mites sort out these particular problems.

If all that seems like a lot of hassle, and it was, there are strands that you can easily grow in the UK in a garden; I can’t guarantee the quality of said strands but they do exist, so just type into Google a very simple question; do a little bit of research, and if you are considering a new career, you will have no shortage of webpages offering advice. I would not suggest you do on these on your work computer, however.

Setting up the equipment was exciting; although all my previous attemts had been poor, I had never really put in this much effort, and Chaz was going to babysit my flat whilst the project was on going. He didn't have the same fear I had of a police raid -- you could say I was paranoid, to say the least. Downside of partaking in the game, I guess.

As everything got moving, I was spending less time at the flat, and Chaz was proving to be very good at adding the nutrients and keeping everything ticking over; understanding the delicacies of the growing process. Every couple of days, he even sent me a picture of the mini forest I was attempting to grow in my spare room. I felt much more comfortable not staying at the flat, it has to be said. If Delito and his mates did come a-knockin', Chaz would obviously deny any knowledge and say he did not live there, and as the flat was in my name I would be the next point of call -- I in turn would deny any knowledge of the plants inside the flat. To be honest, I was not really worried; the flat was out of sight and in a nice enough area that the policing was less obvious there, even though it was little more than 2 miles from the estate I had previously lived on.

As the weeks turned into months, things were coming a long nicely. A small issue with black fly quickly averted, and Chaz and I smugly chose to start deciding how and when we would chop down the cash-cow between us. It was only a matter of days until things would be ready to go; we had also got in touch with Jim and Big Dave, and between the four of us it would be a day's work and then they could take their share and hopefully sell it quickly, giving me my profit. To be fair, after the purchase of the equipment I would make nothing on the first batch; it was the second and third that I would make my money on.

I went back to Big Dave’s (I had crashed there for a few months whilst moving flats and while Chaz “baby-sat” my place for me). I liked staying with Dave, his slowness of movement and speech hid the fact he was actually fairly sharp and witty. Dave was happily planning a new life; he had got his current girlfriend pregnant and she had made him promise to give up the trade -- he'd agreed but decided with the six months he had left, he would “make hay” and try to get a bit of cash behind him before he went straight. I will add that Big Dave no longer has anything to do with weed; he gave up smoking it a few months after the birth of his first son. I respect his decision but regret losing one of my best customers.

After a day of running around and sorting out loose ends, it was “one sleep” until we could cut the whole lot down. I was in for a bumper pay-day, and was excited like it was Christmas. I was also looking forward to a day with three people I considered great mates; Chaz and Jim had been hanging around me for a couple of years and Dave was a top bloke, still in touch to this very day.

I woke up early and sent a text to the lads, and picked up a crate of Strongbow and some beers for the day before returning to the flat to wake up Dave, who was enjoying a lie-in as he said he was running out of time to lounge around before the baby came. Once Dave was dressed, we just wanted a fry-up in the caff to fill us up for the day. I also secretly hoped Chaz would make a start before we got there. Jim texted to say he was running late but would be there soon; he had been held up with work and would be bringing his van with him if we needed it. Rather than walk to the flat myself, I decided to drive on over -- far more sensibly than normal, though this did not stop Dave from complaining that I thought I was a rally driver and that he would be getting a lift back with Jim.

As we entered the flat, I immediately smelled the stunk of skunk -- not just in the flat, but the whole place too. What was going on? Had Chaz started already and forgot about opening the windows? As we entered the flat it became obvious what had really happened. Chaz had gone into business for himself, taking as much of the gear as possible and disappeared. He clearly rushed through the harvesting as it was a tip, with leaves and stems everywhere. Dave and I did not say a word to each other and moved between the rooms silently.

“Fuckin' hell,” Jim said as he entered the front door and assessed the situation.

As we left, I could not help but ask why Chaz had done this to me, the little c*nt, for what reason would he stitch me up? The answer is he got greedy, wanting the lot for himself -- he wanted the hash cake and to eat it too. We went to his mum’s place but their relationship was broken and never to be fixed; she had not seen him in months, and his mates were in the usual spot in the high-street, but none had seen him that day. Someone piped up that he had seen him the night before; apparently he'd mentioned going to stay with a mate? None of this seemed right at the time -- Chaz was a nice kid who I had watch grow into a decent bloke and mate. I constantly questioned what had happened; maybe he was waiting for me somewhere with the product; maybe he knew the police were on their way and cleared the place out as best he could. Hell, maybe the police had taken my weed and nicked Chaz?

Obviously if that had happened, if the flat had been raided, they would have been in touch with me, I was meant to live in the flat and my name was on all the documents to confirm that.

The waste of effort and loss of money were the main reasons I stayed away from growing anything on a large scale again, but I never really understood why Chaz did the dirty on me. I knew he was having trouble, his lack of family was an issue for him, but I could not get my head around it.

For a few weeks I felt like a laughingstock; most of my mates knew I had been had by Chaz. I tried calling him from withheld numbers, but as soon as he heard my voice he would hang up. I followed a number of possible sightings and never caught up with the git. I tried to justify his actions on occasion -- maybe his rubbish home life had made him do it; maybe he was in trouble and needed the cash? These moment of forgiveness and understanding always giving way to anger and disappointment.

On a random afternoon months late,r myself and Dave decided a trip to Lakeside was needed, Dave to pick up bits for the very-soon-to-be-arriving baby, and me for some new clobber. I had sold the hydroponics system and made a tidy profit on that; from there I went back to what I was good at: trading, buying and selling, and without all the extra worries of growing stuff.

I had also moved into my new flat by this point, and was also looking for a few West Ham decorative pictures to put up in the living room.

Also I strolled into the JD sports, there was familiar figure -- an overly-skinny, overly pale-looking shop assistant, talking into his Madonna-like microphone, ordering a pair of Air Max for some spotty teenager. Chaz had got a job! My instant thoughts were "good on him," however they lasted 0.2 of a second, before I remembered. Chaz must have had a better memory than me, for as I began to frown, Chaz had already made a hasty move to the stock room -- he was not coming out while we were still in his shop, evidently. I spoke to Dave and we decided to leave him be, walking out of the store. It did not matter when, but soon enough I would be catching up with Chaz, the little strawberry-blonde prick. It was only a matter of time.

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Jamie Snoll is a pseudonym for a drug-dealer born and bred in Essex, who offers up a view from the different side of the law to our Friday columnist Matt Delito. Check back this Friday for Matt’s next episode.

Image Credit: Drug-dealer via Shutterstock / anonymous via Shutterstock