Rick Wershe is a former drug dealer and police informant who was convicted in 1988, at the age of 17, of possessing 17 pounds of cocaine. Now 46 and a father of three, Wershe is the only inmate in Michigan behind bars who was sentenced to life as a minor under a mandatory minimum that has since been repealed.
Megg, Mogg, & Owl – Part 13, by Simon Hanselmann
A Guide to Europe’s Secret Drug Capitals
If you’re not in Colorado or Washington, and you’ve ever spent more than $100 on weed at once, you’ve probably taken a relaxing vacation away from criminality in Amsterdam. That’s because smoking a joint legally in a beautiful European city, surrounded by both erudite Dutchmen and shit-drunk Scottish stag parties, is generally much more preferable to hot-boxing your friend’s car in a parking lot, slamming the music off and ducking behind the seats every time another car drives by.
But where are other Europeans supposed to go to snort, smoke or ingest in peace? Coke-heads used to have that Bolivian jail where you could buy fishscale direct from the prisoners, but that’s now banished to backpacker lore, ruined by swaths of international media attention and a warden who realized that presiding over a state-funded gak factory probably wouldn’t look great on his resume.
In 2013, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) conducted a study of 42 European cities, analyzing local waste-water (sewage, essentially) to determine which drug was most widely used in each area. Some of the results were as you’d expect, but there were a few in there that stuck out a little, and those are the ones we’ve laid out below in our guide to Europe’s secret drug capitals.
Shockingly, Antwerp—a city full of diamond traders and fashion students—is also full of cocaine. In fact, Europe’s coke capital is so keen on the stuff that nefarious pigeon fanciers have started doping their racing birds with performance-enhancing gak.
One potential reason behind the Belgian capital’s fondness for blow is that almost 25 percent of the cocaine shipped to Europe from South America makes its way through the country, and a large chunk of that through the port of Antwerp. Conveniently—and kind of unbelievably—only two percent of the containers passing through the port each year are actually screened, meaning not a lot gets seized.
And lucky for the city’s residents, that bountiful supply translates into low, low prices; at an average of $68 a gram, it kind of makes sense that it’s so widely used.
The bucolic town of Lazarat is slightly different from many other pastoral Albanian towns, in that its green pastures are mostly made up of cannabis plants, which produce around 900 tons of bud every year. Families can survive off a harvest for a whole year—and growing really is a family business, which is probably why it’s not a good idea to fuck with the kush farmers of Lazarat.
A couple of weeks ago, for example, 800 police surrounded the town. Upon realizing they were boxed-in, residents decided to base their response on the archetypal Michael Bay drug dealer—by grabbing some RPGs and machine guns, and blasting the overwhelmed cops off their turf. Thousands of plants were destroyed, but in the end the police retreated.
Thomas McFadden, the subject of the upcoming movie Marching Powder, traveled all over the world smuggling cocaine and heroin before finding himself in a notoriously dangerous Bolivian prison, where he became a Lonely Planet–endorsed tour guide.
The 2014 European Drug Report came out last week and told us exactly what we already knew: that Europeans are very fond of drugs. Here are some handy heat maps for those of you who don’t know how to read.
The VICE Guide to Raving
Everyone’s a raver now. “Guitar music is dead” is the kind of thing your dad says—that’s how dead it is. Now, it’s all beats and bells and whistles. The future you glimpsed in 90s movies, when everyone’s into techno and has slime-green hair, is upon us.
But while so many of us go raving, the vast majority get it wrong. Be it the drugs, the joy, the communal toilets, or the pressure not to look like a dick, we often end up looking like dicks. We eyeball the DJ, we pump our fists, we kiss Europeans, and we piss our paychecks away on booze and drugs only to throw it all up later that night.
So treat this as Raving for Dummies: a kind of self-help manual for people who can deal with week-long comedowns. Maybe it seems fascistic to tell people how to behave at an event that’s supposed to be about hedonistic release, but watch this video and you’ll understand that perhaps the new graduating class of rave enthusiants could use a bit of guidance.
This is imperative. Looking good is one of the fundamental cornerstones of youth culture; however, that’s not really the case when opting for board shorts and rape-culture-slogan T-shirts. Remember, this all-important sense of aesthetic belonging is what all great cultural movements were built upon.
Except now it isn’t. Some people still make a valiant effort, but really, how long can you spend angling your Night Slugs fitted cap? You aren’t Michael Alig or Sting in Quadrophenia; you’re just one of those guys who gets his fade shaped up once a week. The days of people doing their hair with eggs and glue, ironing their Mohair jackets, or pouring blue paint over their heads are consigned to the past.
Modern club fashion is, by and large, cozily utilitarian—easy to wear, machine-washable, and unlikely to get you attacked at Sunday recovery brunch session. Sure, it’d be great if someone did push the boat out a bit, but in what direction? People standing near repetitive beats have a shameful sartorial history of bleached dreadlocks and furry, flourescent legwarmers; if fashion had a Hague, everyone at Electric Daisy Carnival would stand trial for war crimes. So maybe it’s best to stick with the streetwear.
Sorry to break it to you, but they’re all awful and they’re all bastards. By now, every dealer realized that cutting corners isn’t going to put a dent in their customer base. Especially not when that same customer base strictly buys drugs when they’re drunk and happy to shell out $100 for some mix of boric acid, levamisole, and a cursory dose of whatever it is that they actually want to buy.
An 89-Year-Old Drug Mule Is Threatening to Kill Himself Rather Than Face Jail Time
Leo Sharp is an 89-year-old drug mule. He pleaded guilty last fall to trucking 200 pounds of cocaine across the country for the Sinaloa Cartel. Now, he’s awaiting sentencing next week on May 7, his 90th birthday. He told a news crew in no uncertain terms that if given jail time, “I’m just gonna end it all. Period.” If that’s too ambiguous for you, he clarified: “I’m gonna get a goddamned gun and shoot myself in the mouth or the ear, one or the other.” So if he means it, that’s happening this coming Wednesday.
We need a new way to make sweeping assumptions about entire populations, and what better place to start than drugs? After all, there’s so much you can tell about a person from their drug of choice. Wouldn’t it be great if we could apply the same logic to entire countries?
Pablo Escobar’s Old Estate Is Now a Weird, Jurassic Park-Themed Zoo
When Colombian National Police finally put a bullet through Pablo Escobar’s head in December 1993, he was running what was probably the most successful cocaine cartel of all time, worth some $25 billion. You can do pretty much anything you want with that kind of money, and Escobar did, building houses for the poor, getting himself elected to Colombia’s Congress, and running much of the northeastern city of Medellín as his own personal fiefdom.
In 1978 he bought up a vast tract of land outside the city and started building Hacienda Nápoles, the sort of sprawling complex that you’d expect the world’s richest drug dealer to inhabit, complete with its own array of wild animals. When he died, the land was ignored for a decade and fell into disrepair. The house was looted by locals who were convinced he’d stashed money or drugs in the walls, and the hippos turned feral.
Eventually, some bright spark hit upon the idea of reopening the estate as an adventure park. They kept the name, gave it a Jurassic Park-style makeover and reopened it to the public, creating the ultimate family-friendly tourist destination: a still pretty run-down complex with some dinosaur figurines, some hippos, and the enduring, unavoidable legacy of a man whose cartel were responsible for anywhere between 3,000 to 60,000 deaths.
Sex, Snow, and Cocaine: My Life As a Ski Resort ‘Chalet Bitch’
Belle de Neige (“Beautiful Snow”, if you didn’t take French) is a blog about what people who work ski seasons get up to when they’re not fixing snow blades, or delivery apres-ski drinks to Jemima Khan and whoever else goes on ski holidays. The writer just condensed a bunch of her blog posts into a book, so we asked her to condense her book back into a blog post. This is that.
I’ve been blogging about all the unpalatable shit people get up to on ski seasons for five years. And I’d say I’ve covered all the major bases: sex, ill-advised drug consumption, orgies, avalanches, immoral workplace behavior, rich delinquents, Russian prostitutes—everything you’d expect when you mix young people with high altitudes. So wrapping that all up into one snappy article should be easy, right? All I need to do is reel off a few anecdotes involving undignified sexual encounters as a result of British teens exporting British drinking culture, and I’m set.
But the problem is that I don’t want to start out like that, because perpetuating bullshit myths is boring. And because not everyone behind the scenes of Europe’s ski resorts are Harrovian drop-outs or braying packs of Hollister homeboys. In fact, many “seasonaires”—the word for people who work ski seaons up in the mountains—aren’t like that at all. Many of those who I know are laborers, or lost their jobs in the recession.